Why Doesn’t America Have More Killer Muslims?
So, here’s something that’s been bothering me: why aren’t there more American Muslims committing murder in the name of Allah? For the record, I have no idea how many of this country’s murders are actually committed by Muslims for religious reasons, but I’m willing to bet the percentage is negligible.
Think about it like this, France can’t seem to go a lunar season without an Islamic riot and the Dutch can’t run an editorial cartoon without ducking for cover and yet can anyone think of a similar occurrence in the U.S.A.? I can’t, and I’ve spent most of my life living (relatively) close to the largest concentration of Muslims in the country. I mean, the only thing that comes to mind was a disturbance in the 1980’s when a white college radio DJ played the Cure’s first single, ‘Killing an Arab’ (a new wave adaptation of Camus’ The Stranger) and mentioned that he thought taking out some Middle Easterners sounded like a good idea. The Arab population was outraged and their anger took the form of some harshly worded letters to the editor.
Now, I’m not saying Dearborn’s a great place to picnic after dark, but it’s hardly the most dangerous place in the country, or the world for that matter (can I get a “What! What?” from all of my London peeps?). It seems to me that if the behavior of Arab immigrants in Europe were any true indication of Arab immigrant behavior worldwide, then Detroit should be a smoking crater (well, more so). In fact though, history has proven that when it comes to domestic bred terrorism I have more to worry about from fundamentalist Christians than I do from Muslims.
Now, I’m not the sort to pose a question without answering it with a poorly-reasoned and ill-informed opinion (for the purposes of this explanation, all of my facts come from Gregg Easterbrooks The Progress Paradox, a book I read three years ago and only sort of remember… I wouldn’t take any of this as Gospel). I think the reason that America suffers so little Arab-American violence has everything to do with the fact that we are America (for the record, I know that sentence reads clunky and sounds stupid, but I honestly can’t figure out a better way to write it). As much as our immigration policies and cultural attitudes toward immigrants could benefit from some retooling, when we say that America is a melting pot, it’s more than just lip service. Like every nation on Earth, through legal or cultural pressures, America encourages immigrants to adopt the practices of their adoptive country. However, what America does better than possibly anyone else is showing tolerance towards immigrants’ native cultural patterns and a willingness to make accommodations. I think it says something that France has generations of Arabs who have never crawled out of poverty whereas in America there is no average income difference between an American who can trace his/her ancestry back to the Mayflower and an American who’s parents were born in Syria. It’s not that America is taking in all of the hard-working, industrious Middle Easterners and that France (for the rest of this, France = Europe) get only the lazy immigrants. France isolates it’s Arab immigrants. It makes it almost impossible for impoverished immigrants to assimilate. There’s no breaking in period, no training. France requires it’s immigrants to speak French fluently if they’re to receive any help from the State, there are no French as a Second Language classes for their children and expressions of the immigrants Islamic heritage is actively discouraged if not actually outlawed (didn’t I read somewhere that France was at least thinking about banning the niqab?). There’s no better way to ensure that a people will cling to their traditions than making it illegal to do so.
At least in America there’s no official language, meaning you don’t have to speak English to bring a slum lord to court. If your children don’t pick up English from their American friends (which they will*) there are ESL classes in public schools to help them. As a liberal atheist I may find the burka and niqab sort of demeaning to women, but as an American I realize it’s not my place to make Muslim women wear denim and tank-tops. The end result of all this is that for all real intents and purposes, the children of Muslim immigrants grow up to think of themselves as Arab-Americans. As opposed to the children of Muslim immigrants in France, who think of themselves as Arabs living in France. And that makes all the difference.
*Want to know why America doesn’t need to declare English as the official language of the country? It’s because any such law or amendment would be redundant. Despite whatever you may hear, children do not learn their mother tongue from their parents but from their friends. Sure, if a child grows up in a household that speaks Arabic exclusively, then yes, that child will learn to speak Arabic. However, if that child grows up surrounded by English speaking children, then that child will also naturally learn to speak English fluently. And in most cases, it’s English, the language of their peers, that the children will think of as their first language. And other than a few words and phrases, the grandchildren of Arab immigrants will speak English exclusively.
I know what you’re thinking, “but what if the children are kept from American kids by their parents?” All I can say is, “consider the Pilgrims”. Before landing on American soil, the Pilgrims fled England and settled in the Netherlands. Now, keep in mind that it’s hard to think of a more isolationist group than the Pilgrims (what other group leaves en mass to get away from a dominate culture?). In time, the Pilgrims left the Netherlands for what would become America because the Pilgrim children were growing up culturally Dutch. They spoke Dutch (even at home) and observed non-Pilgrim holidays. In fact, they were so enmeshed in the Dutch culture that many of them were even willing to have fun instead of just working until they collapsed in pain and exhaustion and then quietly dying.
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