A Question of Identity

When it comes to popular prejudice and state repression, the Muslim experience in the US does not seem to have differed much from the rest of the western world since September 11, 2001. Klein was pushing at an open door. A Gallup poll this summer showed that 39% of Americans supported a requirement for Muslims in the US, including American citizens, to carry special identification. In 2005 the Council on American Islamic Relations (Cair) recorded a 30% increase in the number of complaints received about Islamophobic treatment. But while many Muslims in the US looked to Europe in the hope that it might provide a counterbalance to America’s disastrous foreign policy, they also look across the Atlantic in horror at the experiences of their co-religionists. There lies the paradox: the country that has done more than any other to foment Islamic fundamentalism abroad has so far witnessed relatively little of it at home. “Europe is not coping well with the emergence of Islam,” says the executive director of Cair, Nihad Awad. “It has taken a long time for them to accept that Islam is part of its future and also part of its past.” The different experiences have emerged partly, it seems, because the Muslim communities on either side of the Atlantic are so different. The patterns of migration have differed. A large proportion of Muslims who came to America arrived with qualifications and were looking for professional work. As a result, they are generally well educated and well off.