Could American Muslims Become As Alienated as European Muslims?




Moushumi Khan recently posted an article on Slate which picks up where Irshad Manji’s Wall Street Journal opinion piece left off:

"The Muslim communities of North America and Europe are often compared, with the conclusion that American Muslims are better integrated, less likely to be radicalized than their European counterparts. But as the war on terror proceeds, racial profiling, the lack of direct communication between Muslims and the government, and the use of paid confidential informants to monitor the Muslim community are all causing an increasing rift between American society and Muslims."

Ms. Khan worries, as I do, that the successful integration of Muslims in America may not continue as it has historically:

"While there might not be actual radicalization in the American Muslim community, there is a danger of increasing frustration leading to alienation. … While the vast majority of Muslim youth are wondering how they can be civically minded Muslim Americans, the government seems to be stuck on the theme of the radicalization of Muslim American youth. … European Muslims and American Muslims have not had much in common until now, but if we unreflectively adopt the European view of Muslims as the perpetual "other," we risk making this true. "Equality not integration" is the rallying cry of European Muslims. Ours is "due process." Some of our worst laws were passed and later regretted at times of reaction against ethnic communities, from the Palmer Raids of 1919 to today’s Patriot Act. In a land founded by immigrants and the rule of law, our nation’s strength lies in its resilience; our way of life depends on equal opportunity. Europe and European Muslims are suffering from the inability to bring Muslims into the economic and political mainstream. Will America turn its back on its rich heritage of celebrating diversity? Will we start to see Muslims as a "law and order" problem as Europe does, rather than as the next wave of dream-seekers?"

These are profound, important thoughts about the social context in which Muslim Americans may come to see "due process" stood on its head.  Going forward, America runs the risk of hiding behind anachronistic notions of protectionism and isolationism in the midst of knee-jerk reactions to stop the inexorable trend of globalization.  The social side effects of these hiccups on the road to the future may lead to unfortunate laws that alienate Muslim Americans and push them closer to the European reality in our own country.  We can avoid this by asking  tough questions of ourselves now– and answering them with the type of tolerance and the spirit of religious pluralism that has made America strong– before it is too late. 

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