Irshad Manji: The US as a Model for Muslim Integration?




In Monday’s Wall Street Journal Irshad Manji makes a simple and cogent argument holding the United States as a model of Muslim integration that other countries should wish for.  In explaining why Political Islam has not taken significant root in the U.S., she draws heavily on statistics from a recent Pew Report, concluding, for example, that:

"For plenty of Muslims in the United States, ambition and initiative pay off. The Pew survey reinforces this lesson, telling us that 71% of Muslim Americans believe most people in the U.S. ‘can make it if they are willing to work hard.’ "

These and other factors common to the American Dream, such as the historic ethnic and racial diversity of the United States, have also facilitated Muslim integration.

Irshad concludes: "Europe, take notes. America, take a break from self-flagellation. Reformist Muslims, take your cue. In the U.S., you have the possibility of a voice. Islam’s better angels depend on it."

This opinion piece stops short of stating Irshad’s view as to how successful this replication of Muslim integration can be outside of the U.S. http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110010164.

As I reflect on this article, several things worry me.

First, I see the U.S. becoming increasingly polarized and economically segregated.  How different will the answers be to the same Pew research report in 2012?

Second, I worry that the success we have had in the U.S. will be virtually impossible to replicate in Europe because of the systemic socio-economic barriers which define the European psyche.

Is it already too late to de-radicalize the Muslim minority in France, for example, and is there a French national will to do what is necessary to create economic opportunity for French Muslims?  Mainstream French politics today would suggest otherwise, which implies that only serious civil unrest, well beyond what we have already seen, can lead to fundamental social change in that country.

Americans should take note of what we’ve done right with the Muslim community to prevent the spread of Political Islam.  What is most heartening is that upward mobility, the value of hard work, and welcoming people of all backgrounds and faiths into our society are all essential to the American DNA.  Let’s not squander it!

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