World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Muslims Integrating and Finding Acceptance in US

Muslims Integrating and Finding Acceptance in American Society

Ihsan Alkhatib discusses U.S., European Muslims in September 7 Internet chat

By Tim Receveur
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – Ihsan Alkhatib, a Michigan lawyer who is deeply involved in civil rights issues, believes that the U.S. government’s policy of tolerance and acceptance is largely responsible for the successful integration of Arab Americans and Muslims into American society.

These groups are successful economically, with above-average education and income levels -- even though half were born outside the United States, Alkhatib said during an Internet chat September 7.

Alkhatib, who is president of the Detroit chapter of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), pointed out that “anti-discrimination is U.S. government policy. The government actively encourages inclusion. While there is discrimination, it is not widespread and systemic. Discrimination goes against the civic religion of this country.”

The greater Detroit area has the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States, led by Lebanese, he said. There are also many Iraqis and Yemenis. Other cities with the large concentrations of Arab Americans include Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.

Alkhatib sees a large contrast between the economic status of Muslims in the United States and Europe.

“In Europe the picture is bleak,” he said. “A significant proportion of European Arabs are Muslims, and they are worse off economically and educationally than the rest of society.”

He said acceptance of Muslims into the larger society is the key to helping to improving their social condition in Europe.

“Europe has to understand that once you open the door for guest workers, human beings come. Acceptance and integration come hand in hand,” Alkhatib said.

“As long as Muslims in Europe are thought of as guests and European countries think of themselves as not immigration countries, there are going to be problems,” he added.

In the United States, he said, there are laws that bar discrimination, “and the emphasis [is] on diversity. Discrimination in employment is very costly for employers in the U.S.”

The scarf/hijab debate is a good example of the differences in American and European integration of Muslims, Alkhatib said.

“Nashala Hearn an 11-year-old sixth-grade student at Ben Franklin Science Academy in Oklahoma was suspended twice for wearing the scarf/hijab. She did what all Americans do when wronged: she sued. The Justice Department joined the suit and accused the Muskogee School District of violating the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. This is stark contrast to French policy,” he said.

According to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, there is to be no prohibition on the exercise of religion, and “wearing the scarf is an exercise of religion,” he said.

Asked how Muslims can maintain their identity as Muslims in a country so big and changing as the United States, Alkhatib said, “The rule is acceptance of the other. Obeying the law is the benchmark for acceptance. If the Amish and the Lubavitch Jews can thrive in the U.S., Muslims should have no problem.”

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Alkhatib said, “There were a number of acts of bigotry, but far more acts of kindness shown by non-Arab non-Muslim Americans to Muslim and Arab Americans.”

“There were numerous incidents of discrimination against women who wear clothes that identify them as Muslim. A number suffered rude stares and insults. However, that was not the response of 99 percent of the population. Tolerance and acceptance is the policy of the country and is widely accepted as the American way,” he said.

After September 11 “the government sent clear messages that Muslim Americans are Americans and are not to be mistreated. President Bush visited a mosque in the Washington area and said those who want to mistreat Muslim Americans do not represent America.”

Alkhatib added that while every society has some intolerant individuals, “the U.S. public looks down on bigotry, and even bigoted individuals do not wish to be identified as intolerant.”

Detroit was a magnet for many Muslim immigrants because of the employment opportunities in the automobile industry, according to Alkhatib. He said that many Southern Lebanese immigrants who escaped the war in Lebanon also ended up in the Detroit area.

He concluded by saying, “We are at home in the U.S.”

Alkhatib also serves as director of legal services for a nonprofit organization, Life for Relief and Development (see Web site). Currently, Life is helping provide aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. In conjunction with a number of Muslim organizations, Life and its coalition partners pledged $10 million in relief.

ADC is also encouraging donations to relief organizations for the hurricane victims. Details are available on the ADC Web site.

More Web chats are upcoming including:

• Victor Davis Hanson, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, on the spread of freedom (September 21)

• Gary Weaver, American University, on immigrant identity and integration into a multi-cultural society (September 28).

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Gordon Campbell: Is This Guy The World’s Most Dangerous Thirtysomething?

Saudi Arabia has long been regarded as a pillar of stability in the Middle East, and is the essential caterer to the West’s fossil fuel needs. It is also the country that gave us Osama Bin Laden, al Qaeda, and 15 of the 19 terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks... More>>


Non-Binding Postal Vote: Australia Says Yes To Same Sex Marriage

Binoy Kampmark: Out of 150 federal seats, 133 registered affirmative totals in returning their response to the question “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”. More>>


Bonn Climate Change Conference: Protecting Health In Small Island States

The vision is that, by 2030, all Small Island Developing States will have health systems that are resilient to climate change and countries around the world will be reducing their carbon emissions both to protect the most vulnerable from climate risks and deliver large health benefits in carbon-emitting countries. More>>


Camp Shut Down: Refugees Must Be Rescued From Manus

On 31st October 2017, the detention centre on Manus Island in which the Australian Government has been holding more than 700 refugees was closed, leaving those living there in a desperate situation. More>>



Rohingya Muslims Massacred: Restrictions On Aid Put 1000s At Risk

Amnesty: The Myanmar authorities’ restrictions on international aid in Rakhine state is putting tens of thousands of lives at risk in a region where mainly Rohingya people are already suffering horrific abuses from a disproportionate military campaign. More>>


  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC