Min post om de franske optøjer og forskellene på amerikanske og franske tilstande for muslimske indvandrere har afstedkommet en større debat her på bloggen. Meget passende har det altid spændende amerikanske tidsskrift The New Republic i sit kommende nummer en ganske velskrevet artikel om netop det emne med titlen “Religious Protection”. TNR kan næppe anklages for just at være en del af Bush-administrationens bagland, men kan omvendt heller ikke entydigt klassificeres som doktrinært venstreorienteret og politisk korrekt. Netop derfor kan det måske være interessant at se på, hvad artiklen siger–uden at man iøvrigt behøver at være enig i alle dens fortolkninger eller forudsigelser.
Kort fortalt mener forfatteren, Spencer Ackerman, at, ja, amerikanske muslimer generelt er mindre radikale end de tilsvarende europæiske, og at de generelt er bedre integrerede. Årsagen er to-foldig: For det første har de bedre økonomiske muligheder end i Europa, og for det andet gør der vidtstrakte grad af religiøsitet-cum-religionsfrihed i USA, at de på den ene side ikke bliver opfattet som “nuts”, blot fordi de er religiøse, og på den anden side at debatten ikke så meget bliver én om sekularisme vs. religion.
Her er nogle smagsprøver fra artiklen, som også indeholder interessante faktuelle oplysninger:
“[The] British and American cases are not the same. It’s true that extremist messages exist in American Muslim communities, and there have been a few instances of American Muslims becoming terrorists. Those extremely rare cases, however, are far better explained by individual pathology than by rising Islamic militancy due to group disaffection. Europe’s growing Muslim culture of alienation, marginalization, and jihad isn’t taking root here. As a result, one senior administration official contends, “Al Qaeda finds greater support among European Muslim communities than in the U.S.”–meaning that the self-activated jihadists that Europe is witnessing are less likely to appear in America. In part, the United States is protected because it offers better social and economic opportunities to its Muslim citizens, while Europe’s inability to accommodate its growing Muslim underclass led to rioting that spread from the Paris suburbs across France. But economics alone can’t explain the more fluid integration of Muslims into American life. That, in large part, is a function of America’s ability to accommodate Islam itself.
French political theorist Olivier Roy argues that jihadism stems from a violent identity crisis felt acutely among Muslims in the West. But, ironically, that search for identity is far less of a crisis for Muslims in the United States–the supposed oppressor of Muslims, in bin Laden’s telling–because of a fundamentally American attribute: the mutually reinforcing creeds of pluralism and religiosity. “When I go out to Bush Country,” says Eboo Patel of Chicago’s Interfaith Youth Core, “it is true that, for some people, the way I pray is peculiar. But they don’t think I’m hallucinating when I say, ‘It’s prayer time.'” In other words, if the United States is looking for a way to win the hearts and minds of Muslims worldwide, it ought to first look at what it has accomplished at home. …
There’s no doubt that, as Patel puts it, “extreme messages are out there.” … [But] given the availability of extremist messages to American Muslims–who live in the country that’s supposedly the premier enemy of Islam–it’s startling how few American Muslim extremists there actually are. The Justice Department’s record on counterterrorism post-September 11 suggests little appetite among American Muslims for the jihadist agenda. Though, in June, President Bush boasted of investigating more than 400 terrorism suspects and winning convictions of “more than half of those charged,” an analysis by The Washington Post found that only 39 of the convictions could be considered at all terrorism-related, and only 14 of those prosecuted had links to Al Qaeda. … What’s more, despite intimations that Islamic preaching in the United States is breeding terrorism, evidence suggests that the few Americans who picked up jihadism in the United States were primed for violence by psychological disturbance or past criminal activity–not the call of an imam. …
Indeed, counterterrorism experts are taking notice of the relative absence of American Muslims in the global jihadist movement. In a September talk, former White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke observed, “Al Qaeda’s usual strategy is … to rely on indigenous populations, and maybe bring in a few operatives, but that indigenous population may not be here in the numbers necessary.” (Considering that September 11 was executed by only 19 men, that’s quite a statement about millions of American Muslims.) Some in the Bush administration concur. “An Al Qaeda-like attack–well-coordinated, in sequence, causing significant casualties–is less likely to come from a native American Muslim population,” says the senior official. “Countervailing factors make it less likely for sleeper cells to germinate among the native American Muslim population.” Those factors, according to the official, are fundamental: “It’s the American dream. American Muslims are living that dream.” Even that may be an understatement. For a variety of reasons, the United States has successfully created the model for a Western Muslim identity.
The most obvious reasons for that success are social and economic. As the riots in France highlighted, Muslims in Europe face severe levels of unemployment, few professional prospects, and social isolation. When Eboo Patel studied at Oxford University in the late ’90s, his American youth had left him thoroughly unprepared for what Muslims like himself had to endure in Britain. The economic options for his co-religionists were largely limited to working at “the fish and chips store, where racist insults were thrown at them by drunks on Friday nights.” It was an alien experience: “In America, my dad would go off to a corporate office for his job, and my mom was in advertising.” Patel’s shock is as illuminating as it should be unsurprising. Since Muslims began coming to the United States in appreciable numbers after the immigration reforms of 1965–around the same time that an African American Muslim community began to flourish–they have found a socially and economically hospitable environment.
It’s difficult to document trends among American Muslims, since census data do not track religion. Yet, in 2003, John R. Logan, a sociologist now affiliated with Brown University’s American Communities Project, used ancestry and place-of-birth information to conduct perhaps the most comprehensive demographic study to date of the American Muslim population. (Accordingly, Logan couldn’t track African American Muslims, believed to comprise one-third of all American Muslims.) That population increased by about 85 percent since 1990 and now totals nearly 3 million Americans, though some Muslim organizations claim the figure is too low. Even accepting the blurred edges of his report, Logan found several surprising facts about the American Muslim population: Unlike other recent immigrant groups, and distinctly unlike Muslims in Europe, American Muslims are solidly middle-class and solidly integrated with their non-Muslim neighbors.
n Muslims tend to live in a few population centers, along the coasts and around Midwestern and Southern cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Houston. But, inside those metropolitan areas, enclaves–homogenous population clusters historically favored by recent immigrant groups–are surprisingly few. The ten metropolitan regions with the greatest concentration of Muslims tend to be ethnically integrated. With Detroit as the only exception, in both 1990 and 2000, every neighborhood with notable concentrations of Muslims was at least 60 percent white and only around 5 percent Muslim.
Within those neighborhoods, American Muslims display healthy indications of upward social mobility. The median household income of American Muslims in 2000 was over $52,000, nearly the $53,000 reported by the median white household. Even the poorest households among American Muslim groups, North Africans, earned $40,000 on average in 2000–$6,000 more than blacks. The typical American Muslim in 2000 possessed 14 years of education (more than whites, Latinos, blacks, and Asians); and American Muslims of Middle Eastern descent, who possess the lowest levels of education, still record higher levels of education than whites, blacks, and Latinos. American Muslims are presently living in census tracts where nearly 60 percent of residents own their homes and over 35 percent of residents have college educations. “Overall,” writes Logan, “the Muslim-origin population is characterized by high education and income with low unemployment.” “