"The European Problem - How American Muslims Could Become as Alienated as European Muslims," a Commentary by Moushumi Khan

July 24, 2007

Author: Moushumi Khan

Source: Slate


The two terrorist attacks known worldwide by their dates—9/11 and 7/7—inspired suspicion of Muslims in communities in both Europe and America. But each one also symbolizes the different relations each continent has with their Muslim populations. On 9/11, America was attacked by Muslims who came here solely for the purpose of attacking it. On 7/7, London was bombed by British Muslims who were products of their own society. What lessons Europe and America each draw from this will determine the future of their Muslims and their national identity.

The Muslim communities of North America and Europe are often compared, with the conclusion that American Muslims are better integrated, less likely to be radicalized than their European counterparts. But as the war on terror proceeds, racial profiling, the lack of direct communication between Muslims and the government, and the use of paid confidential informants to monitor the Muslim community are all causing an increasing rift between American society and Muslims. In the end, these issues could undo the integration that American Muslims have previously achieved and create the same marginalization and exclusion from society facing European Muslims. This alienation became painfully evident two years ago, when the suburbs of Paris were burning in protest after two French Muslim youths were killed trying to run away from police. The barrier of suspicion made it virtually impossible for French authorities to quell the violence. In response, European countries have been busy trying to create "moderate" Muslim organizations for them to interface with. But these organizations carry very little legitimacy among the Muslim communities they supposedly represent. America is fortunate enough to have a strong civil society from which indigenous Muslim organizations are already emerging. But the strained relations that helped cause the French riots could be developing in the United States if America is not careful to avoid Europe's missteps.