Islam and Assimilation

In the wake of the flap over the proposed cultural centre (and prayer area) for Muslims in NYC, the debate over  how “good” Muslims “ought” to assimilate has raised its head (again).  I thought this comment written as a response to Ross Douthat’s recent NYT column “Islam in two Americas” was worth reproducing in full.

Every day I watch the Christian Conservative Right in this country become more powerful and more hateful, and yet you tell American Muslims to become more moderate. You speak as if we have not assimilated, but we have, beautifully. American Muslims do not practice polygamy, we are educated, we speak English, our women are active and visible members of society. And through the past 10 years, through all the propaganda and hate and accusations, we have remained in this country and stood our ground, and we have refused to become involved in this so-called “global jihad” against America. We are a vision of moderation itself, even by American standards.

You tell us we need to become more like you, but what more would you have us do? It seems you will only be happy once Muslim women stop veiling and we cease to be ourselves completely.

And yet you give in to those who would use their own prejudice to attack us, as if we are the ones who are responsible for 9/11. American Muslims died that day in those towers. We were not the perpetrators, and we have not become the perpetrators. Americans have lost sight of who their real enemy is.

I mentioned in a previous post that my family has been in this country for over 300 years. My ancestors fought in the American Revolution, the Civil War, WWI, my grandfather fought in Normandy, my father was in Vietnam. Yet you are telling me to be moderate and assimilate. Into this country which my family has helped to build!

It is insulting, and I cannot fully express in words the frustration I feel.

This comment was written by Alexandria, New York, NY.  I can’t figure out how to link to a particular comment, but if you click on the responses to Douthat’s piece, this is #72.

9 thoughts on “Islam and Assimilation

  1. Wow, what a great comment, and so true. We need less hateful propaganda and more understanding. I’ve never been able to figure out why the extreme Christian groups can be as un-assimilated as they want, saying they disagree with all policy, homeschooling to stay out of the public school system, perpetrating violence against different groups such as doctors who perform abortions… but then say that others have to assimilate more and be more moderate??

  2. All the “highlighted” comments on that article are awesome – including one from a Rabbi.

    This article is also excellent and calls out the formerly persecuted who are not happily jumping on the bandwagon. How quickly people forget.

  3. @ Amy: Yes. And I was also thinking about Quebec’s ruling when I posted that piece.

    @ Shripriya: Thanks for that link, that was powerful stuff!

    @ Silvia: You’re welcome! They’ve closed comments on the NYT piece now, otherwise you could’ve offered a scholarly rebuttal of all the b.s. there.

  4. Just curious. Are such continuing calls for assimilation by the ‘Christian Conservative Right’ being made as vociferously of other minority religious and ethnic communities like Hindus, Jews, Buddhist, Parsis etc.? or for that matter of Latin American Catholic and Indian Syrian Christians?

  5. @ Anil: The answer is complicated–varies depending on region, religion, and race, and political context. And of course, post 9/11 paranoia has placed undue emphasis on visible symbols of religious affiliation. I think the sentiment is loudest when it comes to Islam, but yes, it’s directed against other groups as well.

  6. I believe that the world would be a better place for everyone if there is freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Sometimes there should not be any indications of religion at all, for example at a party attended by people of different religions.

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