Saturday, August 22, 2009

Religious Assimilation

My response to this post:

It's sad to see a reputable website publicize a re-hashing of Samuel Huntington's false Clash of Civilizations thesis. First, if some sort of clash between Islam and the West is inevitable, why hasn't America experienced major issues with integrating Muslims? "Muslim Americans, like Arab-Americans, have fared well in the U.S. The Zogby survey found that 59% of American Muslims have at least an undergraduate education, making them the most highly educated group in America...[Also] 21% of Muslim Americans intermarry...close to the national rate of 22% of Americans who marry outside their religion" See WSJ article (Stephens/Rago, 8/24/05).

Second, is it fair for anyone to judge an immigration pool after just one or two generations? It typically takes at least three generations to assimilate--and this is true of all immigrant pools, not just Muslims.

Third, isn't Europe's "problem" of integration its own doing? Europe needed immigrants to do tough jobs for low pay. It voluntarily imported low paid men without any long term plans on how to integrate them into a society far different from their homelands. Is it any wonder that, in the absence of a welcome alternative, these men gravitated towards similarly situated ethnic and religious groups? Or did Europeans expect these immigrants to speak the Queen's English and order pints within a few months?

Fourth, when will we learn from history? These exact same objections were made against Jewish immigrants; against Irish Catholic immigrations; against Italian Catholic immigrants; and against Latino Catholic immigrants. All have integrated into American society. Moreover, despite suffering persecution in Europe, non-Christians, including Jews and atheists, are now accepted as fully assimilated European citizens and still retain their own identity--so why should the experience of Muslims be any different in the long run? Mind you, assimilation isn't the only path to prosperity. American-born Mormons may have actually done better by not fully assimilating in American society and now have the state of Utah to show for it.

In the end, religion isn't a reliable factor for any future projections, because it is practiced in so many different ways all over the world and by so many different people. For example, a religiously-focused person may claim African-American Christians are the least assimilated group in America based on their segregated living patterns, lower education, and lower income levels. Does this mean Christians cannot be assimilated in America? One immediately sees the absurdity in making this kind of argument.

I am saddened by Mr. Cowen's seeming endorsement of this book, especially on a date so close to Ramadan.

Bonus: another blogger's take on European Muslim immigration is here.

Bonus II: below is my response to another comment on Marginal Revolution, which alleges Muslims are somehow different than previous generations of immigrants because they self-identify as Muslims rather than their ethnicity. In other words, the writer's (unsupported) theory is that German immigrants were more likely to identify as Germans rather than Christians, but a Syrian Muslim is more likely to identify as a Muslim first and a Syrian second. The (unproven) theory is that this form of self-identification apparently creates problems because nationalism and patriotism are better suited to assimilation than religious identification. The writer also made a comment that Islam is more politicized today than other religions.

My response: Assimilation is a long, gradual process. Thus, no matter how immigrants self-identify, it's the third generation that assimilates, making data about the first and second generation of limited relevance.

Also, so what if some Muslims in 2009 self-identify as Muslims instead of an ethnic background? Take your theory and replace Muslims in 2009 with Jews in 2009. Is there a difference between the groups in favoring religious over ethnic self-identification? Probably not. Thus, the real question is whether there will there be a difference by the third generation in terms of self-identification. To the extent a host country provides its immigrants with a reasonable chance of upward mobility and political representation, cultural assimilation should not be a problem by the third generation.

I don't understand your second point. To the extent you are saying religious conservatives fight with secularists, so what? This same "fight" happens in America, especially between Southern states and non-Southern states. The key issue isn't religion, but balancing separation of religion and state with freedom of religious expression. On this issue, America seems to be doing a much better job than Europe. For instance, most American elected officials strive for tolerance, while European elected officials seem to openly criticize non-Christians. America's ideal of tolerance, including religious tolerance, may assist America in assimilating its American Muslims. At the end of the day, it seems like Europe is repeating its mistakes--or did you forget that Europe's failure of religious tolerance spawned modern-day America?

1 comment:

Alison said...