Defining MUSLIM AMERICAN IDENTITY:

Defining MUSLIM AMERICAN IDENTITY: A preview into how it would unfold in generations to come and how to capitalize on it
Mohammad Akhtar, Ph.D
President, Muslim Council of America

Preamble : Islam as a unifying basis for Americanization? Muslim migrants came to USA predominantly about half a century ago. They showed remarkable adaptation to American ways within a decade or so after their arrival, when it came to perform in their jobs very much like Americans in their efficient handling and in American mannerism. Beyond that, have they become American at heart so to speak? Very sluggishly and very little indeed, which is quite normal . In our case, the big barrier to Americanization as Muslims mistakenly think is Islam, but actually underneath it is the same native old culture as is in the case of every migrant group. What we call back home Islamic way, much of it is Arabian or Pakistani expression, little of it is Islamic in the sense of basic values.
There is one centuries - old article of wisdom “when you live in Rome, do as Romans do” This is established as a sociological truism that Americanization on the whole is adaptive, beneficial and is much more needed for small minorities like Muslims, so sooner it is the better it is. Most of us took the oath of allegiance 3 - 4 decades ago when we became citizens but with little impact and slow movement. The most common ploy Muslims use for their resistance to American practices is their conflict with Islam. In actuality, the conflict is with Pakistani practices and Arabian behaviors or- the native culture from where Muslim migrants came. Here is one of the most powerful source for our resistant behavior is the homeland where we are born and the culture we grow up. That over rides many other reasons for our behavior is evident in another Truism II of Sociology. It states that migrants hardly assimilate in American culture in the first generation, in the second generation there is noticeable assimilation, after that there is momentum so that by the 5th generation complete Americanization sets in.
If we want to speed it up, Islam can be a good catalyst, because it will be a double edged catalyst. On the one hand it will help disconnect us from the old culture for the reason that it was only culture, however, basic values that is real Islam are in America too- as a matter of fact those values are much more transparent in American practices than in any other culture . That perception and love of Islam must readily transform towards love of America and vice versa.

A plea for regulating the process and for guiding the identity formation.
Normally in the previous cases migrants were left to the natural process of acculturation to be transformed. It took 5 generations to Americanize. In our case, the suggestion is to guide the process in planned manner, identify the necessary Islamic components in the America format and identify the unacceptable American practices that are in sharp conflict with Islam before hand and then sell this synthetic product of new identity to Muslims at large through dissemination and group support by Muslim organizations. The clear advantage of it is that it will speed up the process of Americanization. The most notable advantage of including Islamic component in the synthetic Identity at this early stage is its high acceptability when the tide of Americanism has not attained its height when it will wash everything out other than what is naturally Americanism. When we leave up to nature when Americanism gains momentum at that point in time when Islam seems to be submerging under water, it is futile to salvage it. Islam as a viable component requires its early recognition and the pre-planned approach for its vital role.

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