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The Overview of the Muslim Migration History in the USA
The global migration streams, including those from the states of the Islamic world, still move to the west. If the domination of the USA was a globalization basis in the last quarter of the 20th century, the situation changes at the beginning of the 21st (Cohen, 2008, p. 4; Galtung, Degortes, Fischer, Hayford, & Weber, 2012, p. 4). After “the rise of the West” era, the “the rise of the rest” period started (Pew Research Center, 2007, p. 2). This essay provides an overview of the Muslim migration history in the USA, paying attention to the context of their arrival and settlement, major characteristics, the nature of religious and cultural challenges confronting them, and the relative success in meeting them.
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The “American Muslims” is a wide range of ethnic, cultural, economic, and educational groups on the territory of the USA (Galtung et al., 2012, p. 6). However, there is a discourse not about separate cohorts, but the place and role of the Muslim community in the American social and political space. Unlike the classical diasporas, the basis of their community composes not of the ethnic, language or geographical components, but only of the accessory to Islam (Pew Research Center, 2007, p. 2).
The Muslim diaspora in the USA appeared at the beginning of the 17th century. Over 15 million Muslims live in the USA now, and more than 3 million of them accepted Islam. (Fig. 1). By 2020, there will be more Muslims than Christians in each big city in the USA (Kettani, 2010, p. 127). Their community in the USA continues to grow steadily, consequently, the number of mosques and Muslim schools increases. Due to a rather strong community, the Muslim diaspora in the USA has a considerable influence on the political and public situation in the country. In comparison with Europe, American Muslims have more religious freedom.
Figure 1. Population Penetration, Estimates Muslim Adherents in the United States, 2010. Adapted from the “Muslim population in the Americas: 1950-2020,” by Kettani, H., 2010, International Journal of Environmental Science and Development, 1(2), 135.
The Muslims, who came to the USA in the 1920s, easily adapted and assimilated with the rest of the U.S. population. However, after World War II, there was a new wave of more educated Muslim immigrants in the country. Then, a large number of them arrived in America from the USSR, Iran, Lebanon, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan in 1975-1980 (Pew Research Center, 2007, p. 3). The intensive immigration was connected with the acute ethnopolitical conflicts such as the civil war in Lebanon, the Islamic revolution in Iran, and war in Afghanistan.
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The separate Muslim communities quickly integrated due to the support of the other ethnic groups having communication with the countries of their origin (Moghissi & Ghorashi, 2012, p. 187). The influential Armenian diaspora gave huge support to the natives of Iran and Lebanon, kind of gratitude for the shelter in the period of Genocide 1915-1923 in Syria, Iran, Palestine, and Lebanon. However, after the terroristic acts on September 11, 2001, it became more difficult for Muslims to immigrate to the USA (Pew Research Center, 2007, p. 4).
The Iraqi War in 2003 led to the mass outflow of the population from the country, and if the Iraqi Christians could almost freely immigrate to the USA, there were a lot of legal barriers for Muslims (Bureau of International Information Programs U.S. Department of State, p.10). It was connected with the deterioration of the Muslims’ image in the USA after the September 11 and fear of the American government to import people propagandizing political Islam to the country (Moghissi & Ghorashi, 2012, p. 187). Only several Iraqi Muslims, who worked closely with the American armed forces, were given the chance to go to the USA to obtain the status of political refugees. At the same time, they were under a though control of the intelligence agencies and mass media.
Thus, psychological reasons together with the absence of clear differentiation between Islamists and Muslims caused the negative emotional background of Muslims in American society (Pew Research Center, 2007, p. 4). However, it made a strong impact on the strengthening of the unity and solidarity of the Muslim community there. The modern Muslim generations actively seek for the integration into the American society, associating themselves with the Muslim identity. Moreover, its young, educated, and active representatives of the Muslim community promote the American values of pluralism, tolerance, and democracy (Pew Research Center, 2007, p. 5).
The Major Characteristics of the American Muslims
The Muslim community in the USA is unique in its variety: only 35% of it was born in the country and is represented by the African Americans. The others are the natives of 80 various Asian states (two thirds) and Africa (one third) (Kettani, 2010, p. 128). No world country has so rich palette of various origins Muslims. Therefore, the American Islamic community is a kind of microcosm of the whole Muslim world. These people represent an unusual mosaic of the ethnic, language, ideological, social, economic, and religious groups historically and culturally not connected with the USA.
Owing to the ethnocultural and religious features, the Muslim diaspora is a rather closed, but not isolated community (Ali, 2010, p. 184). In Europe, for example, they often have a marginal life in separate, closed areas, turned into peculiar voluntary ghettoes. Although in American society, there are also negative stereotypes concerning Muslims, their situation is more preferable than in many other countries having Islamic diasporas (Ali, 2010, p. 185).
The African Americans occupy a specific place among the American Muslims . Islam became popular among them during the 1930-1960s as a reaction to social inequality, racism, and segregation. The first African American Muslim organization, “The Nation of Islam”, was created by the white Christian Protestant Wallace Ford. Being a son of the rich restaurateur from Detroit, Ford obtained a good education. The American political scientist Marvin Parry in his works on “The Nation of Islam” notes that young Ford actively studied different religious trends, and Islam philosophy became a life-basis for him. In 1929, he accepted Islam under the name Fared Muhammad and founded “The Nation of Islam” (Pew Research Center, 2007, p. 16).
Despite the radical charter of the organization, the U.S. Government did not object the active promotion of Islam among the Afro-Americans for pragmatic reasons. In five years of its activity, the crime level among the latter community decreased by 28%, and the educational degree increased by 30% (Pew Research Center, 2007, p. 8). Over time, the organization extended, including popular personalities, such as the world boozing champion Cassius Clay, who accepted Islam under the name of Muhammad Ali. The organization propagandized the ideas of racial and religious tolerance, peace, and mutual respect. However, later, this organization radicalized, promoting anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, and lost its popularity in the African-American environment. because of the promotion of anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, and intolerance towards the other religions.
The Challenges Confronting the Muslims in the USA
The problem of the relationship between the American and Muslim communities has two aspects, such as the compatibility of the Muslim doctrine with the democratic values of the country and requirements of the secular state, and the integration of the Muslim population into the U.S. society. The Muslims in the USA experienced difficulties with the social, psychological, and cultural adaptation in the new environment. The process was difficult due to differences in religion, mentality, lifestyle, existing stereotypes about them, and foreign language learning difficulties.
Analyzing the factors of social and psychological adaptation of Muslim immigrants in the USA, psychologists refer to the existence of supporting structures. The secular and religious communities, associations, unions, support groups, published newspapers, and magazines in the native language, common holidays, a possibility of contacts with native culture play an important role. Besides, the subjective factors of adaptation include such personal properties as high communicativeness, responsibility, discipline, and flexibility (Pew Research Center, 2007, p. 30). These personal qualities are formed, as a rule, in the environment with a high level of commitment to traditional and religious morality. Therefore, the religious, national, and cultural associations were the only niche, in which the existence of emigrants was possible at an early stage of migration. Islam and the Muslim unity at their first stage were the major conditions of the Muslims’ survival in the foreign-language and different-faith environment (Ali, 2010, p. 186).
The cultural adaptation of the Muslims coming to the USA also had its peculiarities. Despite the fact that this community there is non-uniform and substantially consists of immigrants, they are more Americans than foreigners in their outlooks, values, and views. The various indicators of the income level and education of the American Muslims say that the degree of their integration into society is comparable to the average values among the other ethnical groups (Pew Research Center, 2007, p. 31).
The lack of financial means for the start-up in the USA composes a very big challenge to Muslim immigrants. However, the immigrants of the first wave provide financial support to the new people with Muslim roots in America. The vital role plays the Muslim economic principles of the material benefits redistribution and social guarantees of the community members traditional for Islam during the period of adaptation. “Zakat” and “sadiki”, donations for the needs of the whole community, the Islamic moral traditions of the mutual aid and support become the guarantee of the social adaptation of immigrants, their integration into the American reality (Galtung et al., 2012, p. 9).
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In the USA, the Muslim community considerably consists of the middle class, doctors, engineers, and scientists. It strengthens the positive feelings of social trust, demand, and accessory to the surrounding society and the new homeland. The followers of Islam in the USA are satisfied with their lives and have more moderate views than the Muslims living in Europe or the rest Islamic world. The efforts on the integration of the Muslims into the American society allowed, pulling together their positions with various non-Islamic socio-political groups, to implement their social and political actions jointly. Every Muslim mosque is the center of its local community and has its own program for the promotion of Islamic values in American society. American Muslims have numerous editions and a lot of TV channels (Pew Research Center, 2007, p. 35). It is an important feature of the American information policy characterized by the pluralism of opinions. The presentation of the materials connected with the Muslim problem cannot be one-sided because there are enough Muslims in the American information space.
Another challenge the Muslims face during the immigration to the USA is the difficulty with the acceptance of the idea that they came to the country by their free choice (Pew Research Center, 2007, p. 32). They consciously made it to become Americans and, consequently, are interested in the easy and harmonious assimilation with American society. After the tragedy of September 11, the American Muslims made unprecedented steps to break the tendency of their negative perception by American society (Moghissi & Ghorashi, 2012, p. 188). The leaders of the Muslim organizations seek the fanatic Islamists to show that they are not strangers, but the same Americans, patriots of the country, for whom terrorism is unacceptable.
The determination of the place the Muslim community should take in the American society is another challenge for the new migrants from the Middle East. The new generation of Muslims prefers to be guided by the concept of “the democratic caliphate”, which means “a social and political system, which Muslims should build in the western countries (Pew Research Center, 2007, p. 36). Its essence is revealed by means of the classical definition of democracy as the power of people for people and fulfilled by people but realized in full compliance with Islam and Sharia. Such a paradigm focuses on the recent Muslim immigrants not to pay due attention to the cultural and political environment surrounding them and not try to understand it. It generates an inattention of the American Muslim micro-communities to the social problems.
Thus, the Muslims of the USA would like to be treated with trust, but not with suspicion, and undertake the mutual efforts for this purpose. However, despite the importance of the political-legal regulation of the religious minorities provision, the public opinion factor should be also taken into consideration. It changed not in favor of Muslim Americans in recent decades and demonstrates the suspicious attitude towards them in the country.
All these challenges demonstrate that there is a rather suspicious attitude to the Muslim community in the USA. Therefore, the processes, which interfere with the improvement of international relations, in general, and the integration of the Muslim community into the USA society continue to work. It leads to the fact that the Muslim diaspora, steadily growing in number and increasing the extent of the integration, is still poorly presented in many spheres of the American public life. Despite the fact that the followers of Islam are economically well integrated, it does not lead to the recognition of Muslims as important actors in the political and social space of the country either by authorities or society yet.
Thus, the U.S. experience in the regulation of interracial, interethnic, and inter-confessional cooperation is rather positive (Galtung et al., 2012, p. 6). There are almost no ethnic inequalities in the USA. At present, strong legal protection of the minorities there exists. It goes back to the official multiculturalism paradigm, which provides the guarantees of preservation and development of their originality. This doctrinal basis allows the U.S. authorities to solve the problems of the civil equality observance, such as a struggle against xenophobia or discrimination on racial or religious grounds, and everything that interferes with the full social integration of the representatives of the other nationalities and beliefs (Bureau of International Information Programs U.S. Department of State, p.13).
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Islam remains the most diverse in the national and cultural aspects of religion in the USA. The first and the second generations of the Muslim immigrants integrated into American society quickly enough due to the social and economic reasons. The present one searches for moral reference points, which could allow adjusting the dialogue with this environment. The number of Islamic representatives in power is insignificant. However, today the domestic and foreign policy of the American administration is directed on the consideration of the of Muslims’ interests. Thus, despite all deprivations, this diaspora in the USA is united by the uniform belief and ancient traditions.
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