CHICAGO: While Arab Americans and Muslims suffered a spike in hate crimes after the September 11 attacks, they do not face the same level of disenfranchisement as their French counterparts, experts say. They’re discriminated against but they have jobs – this is the major difference from Europe, Yvonne Haddad, a professor of Islamic history at Georgetown University in Washington, said. Arab and Muslim immigrants in the US generally identify themselves as Americans and integrate with relative ease into a society that prides itself on social mobility and has more tolerance for cultural and religious differences, Haddad said. To identify as French you have to renounce your faith and have to renounce you previous identity as though your previous self didn’t exist. In the US you don’t have to, she said. Arabs are a tiny minority in the United States, making up less than 1% of the population, according to the census bureau. They also constitute only about a quarter to a third of the country’s Muslims, estimated at 6mn to 7mn people or about 2% of the population. Arab Americans and Muslims are better educated and have a higher income than the national average, said Edina Lekovic, communications director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. There’s no clear connection between the European and the American Muslim experience, she said, explaining that Muslims in the United States are less isolated and homogeneous than their European counterpart. She cautioned against painting the riots as a religious issue rather than the result of economic and political disenfranchisement. This is the culmination of a series of events and it has very little or nothing to do with quote-unquote (Muslim) extremism, she said, noting that France has more Muslim-friendly foreign policy than the United States. French Muslims are not responding to the issues of Palestine or Iraq. They are responding to their domestic situation. The real parallel to the French riots is the African American race riots of the 1960s and following the Rodney King beating, said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. It’s the act of an underclass with expectations that have gone unfulfilled for a long period of time striking out, out of a combination of despair and anger, he said in a telephone interview. France and other European countries have maintained a national identity that is tied to ethnicity while the American identity has shifted over time as waves of immigrants reshape the country. As long as these kids grow up not only in an economic underclass but excluded from being French or Dutch it’s problematic, Zogby said. When people in my community get angry about American foreign policy they get angry as citizens and they fight back as citizens. The process is more open to including them. ?