"US Shared Values Includes Muslims," a Commentary by Irshad Manji

June 8, 2007

Author: Irshad Manji

Source: The Australian


AGAINST the backdrop of civil war, Abraham Lincoln stirred Americans by appealing to their "better angels". Now some of those angels appear in an unprecedented study about Muslims in the US, and they may show us how to prevent civil war in Europe.

Muslim Americans, released by the Pew Research Centre, contains moments of bad news. For example, one in four respondents under the age of 30 accepts suicide bombing. As a reformed-minded Muslim, I say that honouring any religion of peace through violence is like preserving virginity through pre-marital sex. Think about it.

But the Pew report offers a lot more good news. Political Islam has not caught on in the US as it has in Europe because most Muslims in the US are - dare it be said - treated with dignity. The vast majority of those surveyed like their communities and describe their lives as "pretty happy" or "very happy". Which means lobbyists do not speak for Muslim Americans when they cry that the US hates Islam.

In Berlin recently, an audience buzzed nervously when I suggested Europe can learn from America about integrating Muslims. Afterwards, several people confided to me that they know the US is getting something right. What is that something?

As I engage with young Muslims on both sides of the Atlantic, I see three factors: economics, diversity and faith. For plenty of Muslims in the US, ambition and initiative pay off. The Pew survey reinforces this lesson, telling us that 71 per cent of Muslim Americans believe most people in the US "can make it if they are willing to work hard".

Meanwhile, in Europe, young Muslims face blatant discrimination in employment, educational and social opportunities, even when they are citizens. Many subsist on welfare, which only gives them time to stew and surf the web for preachers who spew a rigid identity.