Muslim integration in America vs. Europe

We are about to release our findings on immigration, diversity and social capital with an article called E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the 21st Century (in the June 2007, Scandinavian Political Studies Journal).  The research will also be described in a Sunday NYT magazine piece on June 17 by Erica Goode.  [The article will be available here, starting June 17.]

But there was an interesting Op-Ed yesterday (6/4) in the Wall Street Journal by Irshad Manji called “Muslim Melting Pot“. Ms Manji notes how much European Muslims wish they were American and notes that Europeans downplay shared values with Muslims (to try to appear sympathetic) but which creates confusion and a vacuum in which Muslim youth can be radicalized.

Manji sites several statistics from a recent Pew Survey (“Muslim Americans“) to show how well integration of Muslims into American society has progressed and how America has called on its ‘better angels’ in this process.   For example:

  • 71% of Muslim Americans believe most people in the U.S. “can make it if they are willing to work hard.” This is in contrast to Europe, where Manji notes that “young Muslims face blatant discrimination in employment, educational and social opportunities, even when they are citizens. Many subsist on welfare, which only gives them time to stew and surf the Web for preachers who spew a rigid identity.”
  •  The  “vast majority of those surveyed like their communities and describe their lives as ‘pretty happy’ or ‘very happy.'”
  • Most Muslims in the U.S. report close non-Muslim friends as contrasted by the self-segregation that Manji finds in Europe.
  • More than half of Muslims in the U.S. identify themselves as Americans first, easily eclipsing patriotism among Muslims in Germany, Spain or Britain. Clearly, the U.S. has retained its genius as a nation of immigrants.”

The two downsides that Manji notes are that African American Muslims remain more excluded than other Muslims (are typically less educated than the immigrant Muslims in America) and that 25% of Muslims under 30 in America (according to Pew) believe that suicide suicide bombing “in the defense of Islam can be at least sometimes justified”.  [This latter statistic got some play in sensationalist headlines in rag newspapers, although this number is far lower than similar rates found among younger and older Muslims in Europe.]

Manji glosses over two other downsides in the Pew report.  First, that a bare majority (53%) of American Muslims say “it has become more difficult to be a Muslim in the U.S. since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks” and a majority “also believe that the government ‘singles out’ Muslims for increased surveillance and monitoring.”  And secondly,  only 40% of American Muslims believe that “groups of Arabs carried out [the 9-11] attacks.”

Manji concludes that we should praise how well Muslims have been integrated in America, in contrast to Europe. These conclusions are consistent with impressions we’ve gotten from other scholars and policymakers in Europe.

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