On Muslim integration

Two unrelated items on a related subject: How we get along with different religious cultures.

Item #1: Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core, spoke yesterday in Minneapolis at the Westminster Town Hall Forum. On the rebroadcast today on MPR’s Midday (or you can hear the uninterrupted version here), he told the story of Jersey City, NJ, which has a large Egyptian community. For years the Christian and Muslim members of the community got along, until an Egyptian Christian family was killed execution style.

“As a result of this, these two communities split apart,” he said, noting that the value of diversity isn’t in the number of people who are different, but in the positive relations they have with each other.

He contends it’s not “natural” for two different communities to split apart when a moment of crisis occurs; it takes some person or force. In this case, he says, it took a gentleman who said on “the footsteps of his church, ‘this looks like something Muslims would do.'”

“The first person who defined reality… chose to portray Christians and Muslims in inherent conflict. What if a different kind of leader emerged in that situation?” he said, giving us something to think about today. “What if someone stood up and said, ‘we in Jersey City stand together tall and proud as a community of pluralism against whatever extremists might violate that ethic’?”

Item #2: A study of 30,000 people in 27 countries released today by Gallup, shows that joblessness and poverty are a more potent source of tension between Muslims and wider European and U.S. society than religious differences. It’s portrayed as the one of the first major studies of Muslim integration since Sept. 11.

The AP reports…

These Muslims are more patriotic, more tolerant and more likely to reject violence than the rest of Western society believes they are, the study claims. It suggests most European Muslims, for example, are as happy as other Europeans to live alongside people of other faiths and ethnic backgrounds, and share broadly similar views with their neighbors.

The findings appear to contradict the impression created by angry protests across Europe following the 2005 publication in Denmark of 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, and recent rallies in which small groups of British Muslims have disrupted homecoming parades for soldiers returning from Iraq.

It’s an interesting study that focuses mostly on Europeans. Does the conclusion really translate to the United States? Writing on Huffington Post, author Kamran Pasha has his doubts:

As an American Muslim, one of the greatest things I treasure about the United States is that economic opportunity is largely available to everyone, regardless of race or religion. The kind of overt class system that appears to still be very much in place in Britain is anathema to American notions of entrepreneurialism and social mobility.

Most Muslims I know are quite well educated and prosperous, with the usual joke being that American Muslims won’t settle for anything less than high-paying jobs as doctors, engineers and lawyers. I myself am a former attorney with three graduate degrees and have become a Hollywood screenwriter and producer for networks such as NBC and Showtime. Being a Muslim does not automatically create a glass ceiling in this society, and it is for that reason that most American Muslims are much better integrated than their European counterparts.

I’m hoping this comes up to some degree later this month when Speaking of Faith’s Krista Tippett hosts a session with Joshua DuBois, on religious life in the Obama administration.

  • Bonnie

    With respect to item # 2. Do you think Kamran Pasha is really in touch with the Muslim population in U.S.? ( I mean, most Americans I know are well educated and propserous as well…) I wonder if the Somali folks struggling to make a living in Minneapolis would agree.

  • Tamim

    I think these are very good point.

    Pew had a great pollin 2007 about the Muslims population in the US.

    The vast majority were optimistic and enjoyed life in the US more than the general population.

    The biggest factor was that American Muslims had about the same education and income as the rest of the population.

    This is a clear distinction from European Muslims, whom the majority live in slums and do not have the level of education as the general public.

    US is clearly unique in this. Visit EngageMN.com for more info from local MN Muslims.