Americans often say that America does a better job integrating Muslim immigrants than Europe and therefore does not have to worry about the threat of radicalization and home-grown terror the way European countries do. Many use this argument to say that attacks like those in Paris and Brussels are far less likely to happen here. But is this really true?
The short answer is no. One only has to look at the hateful rhetoric coming from the GOP over the past several years, which has been taken to a new level by Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. In Europe, such rhetoric is almost unheard of in mainstream political parties and confined to far-right fringe parties whose successes have been limited in most cases, although their popularity is still worrying.
The Republicans are one of the few mainstream parties in the western world where racism and xenophobia has grown so extreme, and this should be deeply worrying to anyone concerned about the integration of Muslim immigrants into American society and the threat of radicalization.
Beyond the short answer, the truth is more complicated:
- There are certain advantages that Muslim immigrants can find in America that they can’t find in Europe, but this has more to do with America’s demographic structure than its ability as a society to integrate Muslims.
- Unlike Europe, America already has large communities of non-white minorities, including a large Black Muslim community that goes back to the civil rights era and even before.
- This means it is easier for Muslims in America to find a segment of American society where they can integrate, they are not forced to form their own communities and live separately. That is why there are far fewer “Muslim neighborhoods” in America than there are in Europe.
- So while it is true that there is a segment of American society that can absorb and integrate Muslim immigrants better than Europe, many of the communities that are doing so are themselves poor, marginalized and cut off from the rest of society.
- Make no mistake, White America is just as bad at absorbing and integrating Muslim immigrants as Europe. The primary difference is that there is no “Black Europe” where Muslims can find a place to integrate.
Both America and Europe have serious trouble integrating non-white minorities and in both cases, this is something Jihadist recruiters take advantage of. In fact, a couple months ago, Al-Shabab released a video appealing to American minorities, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The video included clips of Donald Trump’s remarks in order to appeal to American Muslims.
It also highlighted general racism within American society, referring to mass incarceration and police violence to appeal to non-Muslim inner city youth to convert to radical Islam and carry out acts of terror on American soil. The narrator in the video is quoted as saying that “yesterday America was a land of slavery, segregation, lynching and Ku Klux Klan. Tomorrow it will be a land of religious discrimination and concentration camps.” This highlights how easy it is for terrorist groups to exploit America’s social problems.
While there is no excuse for those who join Jihadist groups and carry out terrorist attacks, the fact of the matter is that as long as western countries have large groups of minorities who struggle to integrate and feel at odds with society, home-grown terror will remain a serious threat. So the integration of Muslims and other non-white minorities is more than an issue of social equality, it is also a matter of national security.
Feature image via Twitter/RidzDesign