29 August, 2006

America's Muslims Aren't as Assimilated as You Think :: Washington Post

A new generation of American Muslims -- living in the shadow of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- is becoming more religious. They are more likely to take comfort in their own communities, and less likely to embrace the nation's fabled melting pot of shared values and common culture.

Part of this is linked to the resurgence of Islam over the past several decades, a growth as visible in Western Europe and the United States as it is in Egypt and Morocco. But the Sept. 11 attacks also had the dual effect of making American Muslims feel isolated in their adopted country, while pushing them to rediscover their faith.
. . .
Although the unemployment rate for Muslims in Britain is far higher than for most other groups, the average annual income of a Muslim household surpasses that of average American households. Yet, outside the workplace, Muslims retreat into the comfort zone of their mosques and Islamic schools.
UPDATE: Echoing the first commenter to this point, there are others who are pointing on that American Muslims are assimilated in many ways. Instapundit has a post on the counterargument. Here's what you get from a Technorati search of bloggers that link to the Washington Post article - some alarmist, but many saying the article draws its conclusions from a superficial view of assimilation.


bklyn_in_dubai said...

I wrote this to the washpost: Dear Editors,

I write regarding the article "America's Muslims aren't as assimilated as you think," by Geneive Abdo http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/25/AR2006082501169.html).

I am an asst professor of sociology at Long Island University (Brooklyn, NY) who has studied Muslims in America for the past seven years. I write because the title of the article is quite alarmist while the empirical data of the article does not support the conclusions of the title or of the article. I would be grateful if I were allowed to write a comment longer than the standard letter to the editor. The author does not make the crucial distinction between economic/educational/occupational/spatial assimilation and cultural assimilation. Deciding that American cultural norms -- which for most Muslim I have interacted with who share the author's interviewees opinions -- are not what they're about is NOT the same as their not being assimilated. They are assimilated economically (mostly middle class), educationally (very high rates of university education, relatively few in madrassas), occupationally (few are in ethnic niche economies), and spatially (i.e., live in mixed neighborhoods).

While it is excusable that the average person is confused about what assimilation means, it is not excusable for an expert, especially one published by Oxford University Press. To say that because these people don't like the idea of drinking or dating (which in my experience is often what this boils down to) is NOT the same as saying they are not assimilated. (Replace Muslim with Mormon or Evangelical and you will see why.) Given this paper's relatively open and honest attitude toward Muslim social life over more than a decade (I have been following and I have been impressed), I would hope you would give me a chance to offer a corrective.

Let's see if they give me the chance to respond...

nativeinformant said...

well said! also, I just want to add that considering post- civil-rights identity movements and multicultural discourse in America, asserting ethnic/cultural/religious/racial identity could even be considered a form of assimilation (well, really, a way to show how flawed the concept is itself). Considering the amount of 2nd generation Muslims taking up the hijab and skullcap that their parents have disavowed is an indicator in my mind not of lack of assimilation but the production of different hybrid American identities.

bklyn_in_dubai said...

Actually, after having reread the article many times and spending the better part of the day composing an 800 word oped to send to the post that will likely never be printed, i don't have much issue with the meat of story. It's a horrible, alarmist title that I'm most annoyed about (which conservative bloggers are having a field day with), and that she does not, as nativeinformant points out, have a keen grasp on the idea of assimilation, or on the possibility that multiculturalism allows the assertion of ethnic identity as a kind of assimilation.

bandicoot said...

bklyn and native - that's what struck me when I first saw it; it's hardly about assimilation, and the title creates a neagtive image without factual support (unless the concept is made meaningless). It's the kind of retarded journalism that usually makes me too depressed to leave a comment.

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