Table of Contents
- Overview of Muslim Community Migration History in the US
- Context of Muslim Arrival and Settlement in the US
- Major Characteristic of Muslim Community
- Nature of Religious and Cultural Challenges Affecting the Muslim Community
- Relative Success in Meeting and Accommodating the Challenges
- Conclusion and Recommendations
- Related Free Society Essays
Currently, the term ‘diaspora’ has become significant with the migration of the Syrians to Europe in search of refuge to escape the civil war (Weine, 2012). Nevertheless, over the last few decades, the term has established a more direct meaning. It refers to the movement and dispersion of all cultural and religious societies from their ancestral home to alien land. They move, for instance, to the west because of harsh living conditions in their original homeland. Communities across various nations, which are experiencing some form of war, military coup, or government oppression, are most likely to fall victims of the modern diaspora. Additionally, contemporary issues such as political dictatorship, economic exploitation, ethnic marginalization, and religious discrimination have caused countless communities from various parts of the world to seek refuge in the west. The muslim community is an essential diaspora that is becoming dominant in Europe and America.
Individuals of Islamic religion, the Muslims, encompass an increasing population of global immigrants and a population of the refugees. The survey conducted by Pew Research Center (2015) indicates that the people of Islam have reached the number of 1.6 billion in the world and roughly 15 million in continental Europe. Such condition makes Islam numerically the second main religion after Christianity. The increasing number of the Muslims in Europe and America are becoming remarkably miscellaneous. It is not entirely because of regional diversity of each Muslim community such as ethnicity or social status, but also due to global cultural eccentricity and the impact of the particular diasporic societies in the host nation. Predominantly, the problem facing the Muslim diaspora in the United States (US) lies in their Islamic religion and cultural practices. The essay outlines Muslim diaspora, providing an analysis of its migration history in the US. It evaluates the arrival of Muslims to the US and their settlement, their main features, and nature of religious and ethnic challenges confronting them. It highlights whether these challenges have been solved.
Overview of Muslim Community Migration History in the US
Slaves were perhaps the first Muslim community in the US. The majority of these slaves were Africans and their journey to the New World started perhaps as early as the beginning of 1501. Their exact population figure at the time receives controversies from various scholars. One famous academician, Allan Austin, claims their number to be approximately 40,000 (Sheffer, 2005). Even though there is a significant variation in the absolute size of the earliest Muslim community, the estimation suggests that a good number of African Muslim slaves migrated to the US. For instance, Omar Sayyid, a well-learned Muslim, was brought to the US after the slave master abducted him from his original homeland at the time of African warfare. He stayed in Carolina and was among the early prominent Muslims in the US (Cohen, 2008). In all probability, the Muslims’ migration to the US started with such famous characters.
Context of Muslim Arrival and Settlement in the US
Through historical research, analysts have established that there was three key influxes of Muslim migration and settlement in the US. The first influx of migration included that of the first Muslim community travelling and reaching the US on the slave ships (Cohen, 2008). Most importantly, the second influx of Muslim immigrants started in the aftermath of the post-civil war and roughly ended in the 1920s. This approach created the opportunity for the third and perhaps the final influx of Muslim migration, which is still prevalent.
The first influx of Muslim community probably began in the mid-19th century. This category of the Muslim community mostly consisted of African-American slaves (Moghissi, 2006). They probably came to America after their masters abducted them. Due to this reason, the African-American slaves were forced to move to the US, and analysts consider this group as involuntary. Additionally, it might be because African slaves shipped to the US had no choice as to whether they wanted to go to the west. Apart from some of their rare autobiography, there is little information known about life of these first Muslim communities. For instance, the autobiographies of Abdul Rahman Sori, Sayyid, and Abu Bakr were significant in terms of Islamic lifestyle and accomplishments in trade (Ali, 2010). Besides, the masters did not regard it necessary to document the lives of their slaves. However, the slaves from the noble ancestry had the privilege of their lives to be recorded. This approach facilitated to the lack of information about their lives and their religious way of living. Anyway, the slaves’ masters consider them to be of low birth.
The second wave of Muslim community mostly included individuals from Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan. Moreover, there was an enormous wave of Eastern European Muslims at the beginning of the 20th century. That influx mostly consisted of the Arab Muslims. The aftermath of the Second World War precipitated the migration of Muslims to the US. The Islamic civil war caused significant destruction in the Islamic world that facilitated countless Muslims to move to the US. However, this movement ended roughly in 1924 due to Asian Exclusion Legislation and the Johnson-Reed Immigration Enactment (Moghissi, 2006). This legislation started practicing a system referred to as national origins quota system, which prohibited immigration according to the countries of origin (Cohen, 2008). Both of these enactments hugely prohibited the immigration of Muslims, especially Arabs Muslims.
The last influx of Muslim migration happened after the promulgation of the 1965 US Immigration Law (Moghissi, 2006). This law reduced regulation on immigrations and conducted significant revisions to the first immigration legislations. It revoked the quotas systems, which initially controlled immigration policies by the state origin. Thus, a vast number of Muslim communities moved to the US from many regions around the world. Also, the law put more emphasis on the immigrant’s skills and family relations over their individual place of origin. Due to this fact, many Muslims, especially from Arab world, migrated to the US in search of better life opportunities and settled in such US states as Michigan, South Carolina, etc.
The desire to live with friends and families in the US is the key reason of Muslims’ settlement in the US. Perhaps the immigrants wanted to join with their family and/or friends in the West. Failure to meet friends and families allowed them to stay in locations where other Muslims community had already settled. This kind of settlement where Muslims coming from different parts of the world would settle next to another Muslims in the US was common because they needed to survive (Moghissi, 2006).
The existence of economic opportunities was another key consideration behind Muslims’ settling in the US. For instance, if a particular area had better economic opportunities (e.g. industrialization), it determined the number of Muslim communities present. Many Muslims would settle in locations where there were massive economic opportunities and job availabilities.
The ultimate motive that promoted the settlement of Muslims in the US was educational reasons (Cohen, 2008). Muslim communities dwelled in the areas which provided suitable opportunities for attaining higher education, for exapmle, college education. A crucial example was Malcom X, who was an African-American Muslim (Ali, 2010). He went on to become a key Muslim minister and a famous political activist. The Muslim communities in the US were to support themselves and their next of kin after getting job opportunities in the areas of their settlement. Although there were numerous motives for Muslims’ settling in the US, the ones discussed above are the key issues.
Major Characteristic of Muslim Community
The religious feature was a key attribute of the Muslim diaspora. The Muslim community embraced Islamic religion, and it became an all-comprehensive way of life. The Muslims including those from Sri-Lanka, Bangladesh, Africa, and Lebanon all believed in Hijra. It was the exodus of the Prophet Muhammad and his 70 followers from politically tyrannical surrounding in Mecca to more suitable and welcoming environment of Medina (Ali, 2010). They believed that the world was divided into the abode of belief and disbelief. Similarly, the world constitutes two groups of people including those who believe in the Islamic way of life and the disbelievers. The believers had a special attachment to Allah and did not form ethnoses or tribal groups (Ali, 2010).
The culture was another characteristic of the Muslim diaspora in the US. They believed in the existence of one true God, Allah. Most of this community maintained prayer customs in their areas of residence, during travel and, most importantly, in the Holy Mosque. The Islamic religion required them to pray roughly five times a day. The elders inspired the young ones to pray in the mosques rather than at home in order to strengthen the society bond. Additionally, these Muslim communities had dietary restrictions. For instance, their Islamic culture did not allow them to eat pork or drink alcoholic beverages. The Muslims used this kind of diet and considered the forbidden products as haram. The Muslim diaspora also recognized the holy month of Ramadhan and widely celebrated Eid-Ui-Fitr, which pronounced the end of suffering (Ali, 2010).
Identity is another dominant characteristic of Muslim diaspora in the US. The Muslim immigrants seem to be highly absorbed into American society, and many of them are currently highly satisfied with their lives. However, there remains a significant number of Muslim communities especially from the Arab world and African-American community devoted to their Islamic identity. Analysts from Pew Research Center (2011) indicates that roughly 51 percent of the Muslim immigrants predominantly want to remain distinct from other American cultures, such as Christians, Jews, etc.
Nature of Religious and Cultural Challenges Affecting the Muslim Community
Religious assimilation and integration into the American culture are a primary challenge affecting the Muslim society’s settling in the US. Even though the US government formulated immigration policies aimed at promoting comprehensive assimilation of Muslims into the Western community, that is not a total guarantee that Muslims will not suffer cultural and religious discrimination. The government has not given them absolute guarantee of the absence of physical oppression. In comparison, the Jewish community was a victim of physical and political violence in most parts of Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War (Ali, 2010). Adopting this notion, there is a possibility that assimilated Muslim community in the US do not feel that their Islamic religion is entirely appreciated by non-Muslims. Besides, for the contemporary Muslim immigrants, the challenge involves not precisely fighting poverty and education but integrating into a foreign society, which has contrasting values with their religious culture. The fateful events of the American bombing have significantly increased objections and suspicion of the US government laws towards Muslim diaspora both locally and internationally. This happened due to the issue of terrorism, which is widely connected to Muslims who have misinterpreted the Islamic religion (Moghissi, 2006).
The issue of discrimination is another serious religious challenge that affects the Muslim community’s settling in the US. The problem of religious discrimination touches many Muslim immigrants in America including African-Americans, Arab Muslims, Pakistanis, Lebanese, etc. Contemporary religious analysts indicate that the problem of religious bias affects American-Muslim immigrants, and this has changed the situation to be a life fact (Moghissi, 2006). For instance, Muslim charity organizations are receiving scrutiny, their places of worship are attacked, and their travelling can be a challenge since the majority of the state policemen suspect them to be terrorists, especially after the repercussion of American bombings.
In the United States, Muslim community is considered as a minority. This is a practice that affects their culture. In comparison to the Spanish diaspora, the society views this notion as convivencia, a term referring to social inequality (Ali, 2010). The community feels like the West do not comprehensively appreciate most of their Islamic cultural issues. For instance, the way the Muslims dress, wearing of hijab and kanzu as well as their social distance are receiving numerous criticism from the American culture. This approach has promoted most of the Muslim community members in the US to rely on sharia law in seek for spiritual comfort. It provides guidance for the treatment of non-Muslims settling in alien lands. However, it also provides no guidance as to how they should live as a minority in the West (Moghissi, 2006).
Relative Success in Meeting and Accommodating the Challenges
Muslim spiritual leaders are developing religious organizations to practice their Islamic faith more publicly and clarify the misinterpretation of Islam to the people (Ali, 2010). They are creating awareness through mosques that Islam does not justify such kind of violence as terrorism in the name of spirituality. Furthermore, great number of spiritual leaders are coming up to teach Islam, which is forgiving, peaceful, and respectful to American values and culture. They are educating the youths to practice their religious identity, which is exclusively American and is faithful to the conventional teaching of the religious figure Prophet Mohammad.
Government institutions are attempting to transform general belief and attitude towards the Muslim minority in American culture. They are promoting the change via education programs, a field where significant changes are required to establish an integrated Muslim community in the future. The state is putting more emphasis on national education curriculum to adopt major changes in the Islamic content rather than the form itself (Ali, 2010). With this, education institution is not entirely focusing on teaching the rights and cultural responsibilities, but most predominantly at enhancing the institution of its critical thinking that traditional Muslim practice purposely restrains. In general, the government agencies across the US are encouraging learning institutions to teach the children of the modern generation to embrace the values of sovereignty, democracy, and cultural integrity in order to promote their integration in the American community (Weine, 2012). However, there are other Muslim organizations, which are still insisting on the establishment of private Muslim education institutions, like some communities in Minnesota, Indianapolis, etc. Such practices may delay the transformation of religious and cultural practices in the US regions.
Conclusion and Recommendations
In conclusion, the Muslim diaspora appears to be a rising trend in the US in this century. The population of Muslim immigrants is increasing at a tremendous rate with a high rise of Arab, Pakistani, and Lebanese communities in the US. The first, second, and third influxes of the Muslim community were significant in establishing the migration history of Muslims in the US. Most importantly, religious and cultural identity is the primary characteristic, which distinguishes Muslim diaspora in the US from other communities (e.g. Jews). However, this community is experiencing different types of religious and cultural challenges, which affect them nowadays. Religious assimilation, integration into the American community, cultural minority, and societal discrimination are significant challenges that the modern Muslim diaspora faces. Consequently, the assimilation of the Muslim community into different regions of the US is a challenge, which both the religious institutions and the government need to solve. The government recommends that the future belongs to the younger generation, and learning system should teach the right values and cultural attitudes to the youth for promoting national harmony. Muslim religious leaders should ensure that children do not become the victims of radicalization with the help of educating them that Islam is tolerant, peaceful, and promotes unity. Both the state and the Muslim religious community should fight to stop practices such as shunning the national flag, disrespecting the national anthem, and despising non-Muslim community in order to enhance national unity and solidarity in different cultures. Hopefully, the population of the Muslim community in the US will live peacefully and harmoniously without any form of oppression from both sides.