Sunday, 14 July 2024 17:33

Muslim? Thinking of immigration? Go West, skip Europe

Wednesday, 04 February 2015

65% of US Muslims feel Americans, first; only 45% of European Muslims feel French or German, first. Here's why

At a recent White House news conference with Prime Minister David Cameron, President Barack Obama suggested that Europe needs to do a better job helping Muslims integrate into society. The US Muslim population, he added, is better integrated into society than Muslim populations in Europe.

“Our Muslim populations, they feel themselves to be Americans, and there is this incredible process of immigration and assimilation that is part of our tradition that is probably our greatest strength,” Obama said.

He added that the US, too, is “subject to the kinds of tragedies that we saw at the Boston Marathon,” but the country is still much safer on the whole. “That [assimilation], I think, has been helpful. There are parts of Europe in which that’s not the case and that’s probably the greatest danger that Europe faces,” the President said.

Indeed, the fact that Muslims in America have been less susceptible to anti-Western Islamist ideology than Muslims in France and other European countries is a reflection of the fact that the United States, unlike most European countries, is a diverse immigrant society with a much longer history of absorbing non-European immigrants.

While Muslim immigrants in Europe tend to represent one ethnic and national group (Turks in Germany, South Asians in Britain, North Africans in France), the Muslim population of the United States is more diverse. About a quarter are African-American converts to Islam, while the rest are immigrants or children of immigrants, mainly of Arab and South Asian descent. This kind of pluralism makes it less likely that Muslim Americans would consider themselves part of a cohesive and unified immigrant group in their dealings with the non-Muslim majority. In other words - no Us vs. Them mentality.

Moreover, in contrast to France and other European countries, Muslims in the United States have in general done quite well. Just visit the leafy neighborhoods in Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest concentration of Muslims and Middle Easterners in the United States and then visit the poverty-stricken and crime-ridden suburbs of Paris where Muslims live. Vive La Différence.

Indeed, according to various studies, education and income levels among Muslim immigrants of Pakistani and Iranian descent are higher than those of American-born whites. These groups count among their members many business executives, scientists, engineers, and medical doctors, and quite a few millionaires and even billionaires. Some 45 percent of Muslim immigrants report annual household income levels of $50,000 or higher, slightly above the national average.

And most opinion polls do show that the majority of Muslim Americans feel at home in America. One reason is that Americans, in general, tend to be more religious than Europeans, creating a cultural environment that is more conducive to the lives of devout Muslims who want to practice their religion. So while 49 percent of Muslim-Americans attend mosque prayers on Friday, 45 percent of Christian-Americans attend a weekly church service.

At the same time, while 65 percent of Muslim Americans feel that they are Americans first, only 45 percent of Muslims in Europe feel that they are Germans, French or British and not Muslims first, according to an opinion poll conducted by the Pew Research Center.

The same poll also suggests that the majority of Muslim-Americans, unlike their co-religionists in Europe, share the Western values of the non-Muslim majority. Hence, more than 60 percent of Muslim-Americans – compared to 50 percent of Muslims in Europe -- think that life is worse for women in Muslim countries. The majority of Muslim-Americans are very concerned with Islamic extremism; only around 30 percent of Muslim-Europeans are. And only two percent of Muslim-Americans believe that suicide bombings of civilians can be justified, compared to 25 percent of Muslims in Europe.

That explains why Osama Bin Laden did not recruit Muslim Americans for al-Qaida’s 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. These were planned in Germany and carried out by a group of non-American Muslims living in Europe at the time.

Bin Laden recognized that many Muslims in Europe were feeling alienated from, say, German, French, and British societies, were drawn to radical Islamist ideas and activism and could therefore serve as a potential support group for the Muslim terrorists planning the attacks on the United States.

As Obama suggested, "It’s important for Europe not to simply respond with a hammer and law enforcement and military approaches to these problems,” There also has to be recognition "that the stronger the ties of a North African or a Frenchman of North African descent to French liberties, that’s going to be important over time in solving this problem," he concluded.



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