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Theory #776: Britain vs. The Rebels 8 December 2005

Posted by ALBUS in Culture, GUESTS, Politics.


Muslim Americans of Arab and South Asian descent are on average wealthier, better-educated, less ghettoized, more assimilated into Western society, and less likely to undergo arranged marriages with mates from “back home” than are Muslim Britons of South Asian descent (who often have been “British” for three or four generations).

Why? On the “source” side, Muslim immigrants to Britain were mostly labor-class, plucked straight from South Asian villages to work in British industry. Those who came to the U.S., on the other hand, tended to be from better-educated segments of society. On the “destination” side, America’s immigrant mentality, preexisting diversity, economic structure, and can-do culture have facilitated a degree of assimilation that is less feasible in Britain.

Interestingly enough, the House of Lords and the House of Commons have [had] several Muslims each, while the American Congress lacks similar representation from the ranks of the righteous.

Why? Muslims in Britain feel that they do not have to assimilate to the extent that they lose their “Muslim identity” in the process. They have in a sense embraced their British identity while acknowledging their South Asian roots. It is at this point where society has accepted them such that they can participate in such public high fora as the House of Lords/Commons. However, in the U.S. in order to make it into any such fora, one must forsake one’s own identity for a national [ideological] one. Put simply, if a Muslim of immigrant stock wants to participate as a member of Congress in America, he or she must have reached a point at which assimilation is so tremendous that he or she is willing to let a national identity overcome an Arab or South Asian/Muslim identity. Indeed, Muslim political participation is arguably easiest, culture-wise,
for African-Americans.

In short, the “assimilation” fad is much stronger in the U.S. than in the U.K., but it is also one reason practicing Muslims don’t make it into the government all that often. How many such Muslims are willing to let their “American-ness” overshadow their “Muslim-ness”? This is also perhaps a reason Hindu Americans have made it in greater numbers in the U.S. government than Muslim Americans.

Academic students of Western Muslim culture, such as Y. Haddad, J. Smith, and others have written at length on this topic, essentially confirming these conclusions.



1. Dave - 15 January 2006

Interesting observation, especially in light of Sherman Jackson’s discussion of various competing conceptions of the American political order, and the proper Islamic response. See chapter 4 of “Islam and the Blackamerican” (Oxford Univ. Press: 2005)

2. hikm - 20 February 2006

and with better teeth?

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