Telling the Truth is a Revolutionary Act   الاباحة بالحقيقة هو عمل ثوري
Home News Opinion Blogs Women Rights Multimedia
Muslims Debate
Muslims Debate
Muslims Debate
Muslims Debate
Muslims Debate
Muslims Debate
Muslims Debate
Muslims Debate
Muslims Debate
Muslims Debate
Muslims Debate
Muslims Debate
   America's Muslim Ghettos

By Salam Al-Marayati

Reports that the culprits in the London terrorist

attacks were in fact homegrown British Muslim

lads are reverberating throughout the U.S. Muslim

community. They are forcing Muslims to focus on

how to prevent such incidents in this country. The

way to do this, it is clear, is to combat the Muslim ghetto

mentality that is proliferating in Western

countries these days. This has so far been mostly a

European phenomenon, but it could easily take

root here.

The word "ghetto" comes from the name of the island near Venice where Italian Jews were made to

live in the 16th century. A ghetto is a section of a city occupied by a minority group whose people

live there largely because of social, economic or legal pressure. Make no mistake: British Muslims

are by and large living under such conditions. And it should come as no surprise that residents living

in isolated, homogenous pockets -- such as Leeds, where the suspects resided -- do not feel a sense of

belonging to their nation or the West. Social and economic isolation of minority communities makes

them more prone to political and religious radicalization.

Throughout Europe, cultural barriers separate Muslim ghettos from mainstream society. In general,

European Muslims belong to the underclass. British Muslims are mostly Indo-Pakistani; French

Muslims are largely Algerian, Belgian Muslims are immigrants from Morocco, etc. In many of these

countries where Muslim populations are largely homogenous, the forces of isolation are stronger

than the forces of integration, partly because of the socioeconomic status of Muslim communities

throughout Europe and partly because of self-imposed isolation.

In the United States, it has been a different picture and a different reality. Because American

Muslims are relatively more educated and affluent than European Muslims, they are typically far

more interested in integrating into mainstream society. That American Muslims do not have a

"ghetto problem" may be one reason U.S. officials consider al Qaeda more of a threat in Europe than

within the United States.

But that doesn't mean some American Muslims don't find themselves on the fringes of society.

While social forces in Europe may alienate Muslims, it is political forces in the United States that

repel many. Although the vast majority of American Muslims do not live in economically depressed

physical ghettos, many live in a psychological ghetto caused by the lack of acceptance they feel from

their neighbors and colleagues, especially in the post-Sept. 11 era. This psychological ghetto may

prove the largest challenge in the war on terrorism.

Those of the ghetto mentality experience a kind of self-righteous schizophrenia. Outside home and

the mosque, they abide by the rules and work for their economic improvement. But elsewhere they

fall prey to the extremist recruiters who present no more than a forgery of Islam. As American

Muslim leaders, our aim is to neutralize the nexus of radical ideology with the ghetto mentality.

The challenge for all of us is to prevent the stigmatization of people who feel disowned by

mainstream America. This social ailment should concern all of us Americans who want to see an end

to the evil of terrorism and who wish to pursue the ideals of pluralism. It is both a law enforcement

and a sociopolitical problem.

American Muslims can stem the tide of isolation by articulating a message of Islam that is

American-based, not Arab- or South Asian-based. U.S. political leaders, from the president down to

mayors, can do more to isolate the terrorists by embracing mainstream American Muslim

communities, instead of isolating those communities by excluding them from serious conversations

about the security of our country.

Muslim leaders in the United States, as in Britain, have established a partnership with law

enforcement. That partnership needs national attention to illustrate that the walls of pluralism are

impenetrable to the ideologies of hate. It is the turn of American Muslims, like other religious

minorities in the United States before them, to overcome stigmatization by clearly demonstrating to

all that America is home and that no foe, domestic or foreign, will change that.

Muslims Debate
Muslims Debate