By Brett Sherwood
President Trump’s irrational fear of Muslim immigration and misconceptions on American Muslim assimilation are shaping his policy decisions. His fearful rhetoric and proposed policies threaten to alienate Muslims. He claims that “Assimilation has been very hard. It’s almost—I won’t say nonexistent, but it gets to be pretty close. And I’m talking about second and third generation [Muslims]. . . . There’s no real assimilation.” Despite President Trump’s claims, a number of studies have shown that the situation in the United States is not the same as Europe. Muslim Americans want to be part of American society and are changing to do so.
American Muslims are very unique in many regards. Muslims in America make up only 1–2% of the population, which translate to about 3.3 million people. This contrasts with France, where Muslims make up 7.5% of the total population, as well as Germany (5%) and Britain (4.5%). Muslims in the United States, are also markedly more diverse than those in European communities: American Muslims immigrate from 77 different countries across the world. The American Muslim population hails from South Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East and also represent many sects of Islam. Muslims in European countries are less diverse in both respects. In the UK, the Muslim population is majority South Asian, and in France about 75% of its Muslim population comes from Algeria. This ethnic homogeneity can inhibit assimilation into broader society.
In the United States, the proverbial melting pot, Muslims, by necessity, work with and encounter other traditions and cultures. Several sources have found that this mix of traditions creates a more tolerant Muslim population, one that is more open to multiple interpretations of their faith. Additionally, many American Muslims—81% of whom are immigrants or children of immigrants—identify more with their american identity than they do with their religious identity. In 2009, Gallup found that 50% of American Muslims identify first with their religion and second with their US identity which is comparable to U.S. Christians, 46% of whom identify first with their religion. In essence, American Muslims have a much easier path to integration into American society than Muslims in Europe.
American Muslims are also more liberal on a range of issues. Most Muslims are against homosexuality but American Muslims are more likely to support it. The Pew Research Center and Gallup found that across 39 Muslim-majority countries the average country-level support for homosexuality was a mere 5%, with an overwhelming 80% percent against. However within the United States, 45% of American Muslims felt that homosexuality was morally acceptable, which is an increase in support from 2011 to 2014. Similarly, Muslim in the U.S. are more religiously tolerant and more accepting of inter-religious marriages.
President Trump’s views on Muslims in America are ill-informed. Consequently, his policy decisions are based on a false reality: a reality in which American Muslims are not assimilating and oppose western values. This could not be farther from the truth. American Muslims identify strongly with their American culture and are considerably more liberal than Muslims in Europe. Policies based on false assumptions threaten to alienate American Muslims and create a reality that reinforces Trump’s fears.
Latest posts by Brett Sherwood (see all)
- Trouble in the Balkans - April 13, 2017
- Trump’s Muslim Misconception - March 4, 2017
- Let Me Convince You: The Electoral College Must Go - February 15, 2017