News

    Muslims Integrate into US Mainstream

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Following violent riots last month by Muslims in France and other European countries, many analysts are looking at immigrant communities in the United States.  They find that, for the most part, Muslims are more integrated in American society than their counterparts are in Europe.  But many observers say Europe and America can learn valuable lessons from one another.

    A Wall Between Muslims and Europeans

    Earlier this year, a young Turkish woman was killed on her way to a bus stop in Berlin. One of her younger brothers confessed to the murder.  The woman's crime: she shamed her family by leaving the husband they forced her to marry in Turkey.  The murder made more headlines than similar stories because a teacher alerted the media when two of his female Turkish students condoned the murder. 

    There is a new wall rising in the city of Berlin, wrote German author and sociologist Peter Schneider in reaction to the news.  He says the majority of Berliners have not crossed the invisible barrier separating the affluent central and northern districts of the city from the suburbs housing some 300-thousand Muslims.

    Germany has more than 3.5 million Muslims, 70 percent of whom are Turks and Kurds.  They started arriving in the 1950s and helped fuel the country's post-war economic boom.  Germans referred to them as "Gastarbeiter," or guest workers, because they were expected to eventually return to their home countries. But most of them stayed and were joined by their families. Their children and often grandchildren were born in Germany.

    Temporary Workers Become Permanent

    James Zogby, President of the Arab-American Institute in Washington, says Germany and many other European societies still consider generations of immigrants as temporary laborers.

    "They may have come as guest workers, but today they are stake holders.  They are fundamentally tied to the countries they are in.  There is no way that they are not going to be there.  They [i.e., the host countries] need them.  They have sunk roots deep into the country, but they have been alienated," says Mr. Zogby.

    Since World War Two, Muslims have settled in many parts of Western Europe -- some in search of a better living, others to flee the post-colonial disorder or ethnic violence in their home countries.  Although circumstances vary from country to country, European societies in general have been reluctant to embrace newcomers from different cultures. 

    Easier to Become American than European

    James Zogby says it is much easier for Muslims to become Americans.  "The process of naturalization in America is much more accessible to immigrants, but also the process of becoming American means more than just getting citizenship. It means that you also get a new identity. You also get an attachment to a new culture.  You also get a new sense of who you are and, in the process, the idea of being American changes because all of us become different.  We are today a different America than we were a hundred years ago."

    Mr. Zogby notes that today an American can be portrayed as a Spanish-speaking person, an African-American, an Asian-American, or a woman wearing a head scarf. This was not a case a century ago.  But images of French, German or Italian citizens have changed little to reflect growing immigrant populations.  Analysts note other differences between Muslims communities in Europe and those in the United States. Leena El-Ali, a program director for the non-profit conflict resolution group, Search for Common Ground, says many Muslim immigrants have come to the United States in search of higher education.

    "And a lot of them came independently.  In other words, a son would come and soon afterwards perhaps a sister would follow, then a father, than a mother, etc.  But the point of entry, to a large extent, was education. [They came] in a search of higher education, a better education. And then they would stay," says Ms El-Ali.  "In Europe, perhaps because it's a lot closer to the Middle East in particular, they [i.e., the Muslims] tend to be entire families who emigrated.  So you find in France that you have entire North African families.  You have in the U-K entire families, Middle Eastern, but particularly Indian subcontinent Asians:  Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis.  In Germany you find entire Turkish families, and so on."

    Muslims Do Well in the US

    Observers note that most American Muslims, especially those born here are successful businessmen, scholars, professionals or highly skilled workers.  And most are integrated into mainstream society. In contrast, few Turks in Germany, Moroccans in France or Pakistanis in Britain, for example, have progressed beyond low-skilled jobs.  When unemployment rises, it does so at a higher rate for immigrants and their children who often live in, what many observers call, immigrant ghettos. 

    Sulayman Nyang, Professor of Islam and African studies at Howard University in Washington, warns that new waves of poor and uneducated Muslim refugees are beginning to live in similar circumstances in several U.S. cities.

    "One thing that is happening to the American-Muslim community is that the gradual increase in the number of refugees from Afghanistan, Somalia and other places, is beginning to dilute the solidity of the Muslim economic presence in America," says Professor Nyang.

    Many analysts say the United States should avoid Europe's mistake by continuing to promote the integration of immigrants into mainstream society, and that Europe can learn from America's history of successful immigration.

    This story was first broadcast on the English news program, “VOA News Now.”  For other “Focus” reports, Click Here.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora