The murder of three French soldiers and the killing of four people at a Jewish school in Toulouse France have once again raised the ominous threat of home grown terrorism in the West. Mohamed Merah, 23, had reportedly claimed he was acting to “avenge Palestinian children” and to protest against French military intervention in Afghanistan.
France, Spain, UK and US have all had their share of Al-Qaeda linked attacks. While Osama bin Laden is dead and the organization significantly weakened, as claimed, homegrown threats have not diminished. In fact, as the turmoil spreads in the Islamic world, the internal stability of many western countries is at risk, and experiment with multiculturalism is increasingly uncertain.
Growing Muslim Population In The West
There are two contradictory trends at play. On one hand, Muslim population in the West is growing, however, the policies of these countries are increasingly being perceived as hostile towards the Islamic world.
According to Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life, US Muslim population is expected to rise from 2.6 million in 2010 to 6.2 million by 2030, constituting about 1.7% of the total population. The study puts the number of foreign born Americans at 64.5%. In many northern and eastern European nations, Muslims are expected to make up close to 10% of the total population by 2030, with profound electoral implications.
This, including worsening economics, is resulting in growing intolerance towards ethnic populations, and the rise of anti-immigration policies and right-wing political parties and candidates. In October 2010, courting anti-immigration fervor, Angela Merkel had stated that the German attempt to create a multicultural society has ‘utterly failed’. She added that it was the responsibility of immigrants to do more towards better integration.
The realization of what happens ‘over there’ impacts ‘here’ have still not fully sunk in the West. On the other hand, the nationalist and Islamist sentiments are surging in the Islamic regions impacted by the war against terror.
Muslim Integration In The West
Part of the problem that prevents numbers to convert in to influence, may have to do with how well Muslims are integrated with in the societies of Europe and Northern America. It is commonly referred that American Muslims are better assimilated than their counterparts in Europe. For example, a study funded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros found that only 78% of Muslims in the UK identify themselves as British, in France 49% claim themselves as French, while in Germany only 23% consider themselves Germans. There are about 4 million Muslims in Germany, while France has about 5 Million.
In 2007, a Newsweek poll that intended to assess American attitudes towards Muslims and Islam reported these findings: 40% of Americans believed that American Muslims are as loyal to the US as they are to Islam, 63% believed most American Muslims do not condone violence, and 41% felt that Islam glorifies suicide.
Unfortunately, these numbers will almost certainly change for the worse as more links between the Muslims in the West and extremists are discovered. This leads to the most intriguing question of what does better integration of Muslim means in the European and American context. A challenge in this regards is that while earlier immigrants to Europe and US were cut off from the countries of their origin, the communication revolution and globalization has made it easier for the more recent immigrants to maintain a constant sense of connection to their native lands, and thus maintain multiple loyalties.
At least in political sense, integration for the immigrants has meant supporting the policies of their adopted countries.
Influence On Foreign Policy
A 1998 Newsweek article projected Islam to be the fastest-growing religion in the US and the American Muslim population is expected to surpass the Jewish. Furthermore, a survey conducted by Zogby International in August 2000 and commissioned by the American Muslim Council identified the regional origin of American Muslim as follows: 26.2% Middle Eastern (Arab), 24.7% South Asian, 23.8% African-American, 10.3% Middle Eastern (not Arab), 6.4% East Asian. Moreover, the survey showed that 32.2 % of American Muslims live on the East Coast, 25.3% in the South, 24.3% in the Central/Great Lakes Region, and 18.2% in the West.
Irrespective of these numbers, the foreign policy of the US, with the exception of East Asia, is not considered favorably disposed towards these Islamic regions of the world. Especially, if we compare the influence of American Indian and Jewish population on the foreign policy of US against that of American Muslims. However, it could be argued that the reason for this is not simply religion. The rulers of the countries that constitute these Muslim dominated areas are hardly democratic. Nonetheless, the winds of change are blowing through out these regions in the form of Arab Awakening, with growing chances of moderate Muslims and nationalist coming in to power.
The Role Of Pakistan American Community
PoliTact has been monitoring the evolution of the role of Pakistan American Community in the US, as the relation between Pakistan and US has remained tense over a number of issues. There are two angles to evaluate the role of the community, through the eyes of the American political leadership and how the community itself views its responsibility. This exercise provides clues to the challenges faced by Muslim community in the US as a whole.
At an event organized by the Pakistani American Congress (PAC) at the Capitol Hill last June, the Representatives of the US Congress persistently reminded the Pakistan American community where its loyalty should be as US-Pakistan relations deteriorate.
All four members (John Sarbanes, Allyson Y. Schwartz, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Rush Holt) of the Congress that attended the event highlighted the function of Pakistani American community as facilitators, to create better understanding between the two countries and improve US-Pakistan relations. Visible in their comments was a persistent concern regarding the loyalty of Pakistani American community. At least in political sense, integration of the immigrants to these political figures meant, supporting the policies of their adopted countries.
However, it should be noted that there exists serious divisions with in the Pakistani American community on the drone attacks US conducts that are seen by some as violation of countries’ sovereignty. It should also be noted, that this divergence in the position of the community mimics the divisiveness that is complicating the domestic politics of Pakistan.
There is presently a serious concern in US regarding the growing anti-Americanism in Pakistan. These perhaps are the worries that caused the members from US Congress to remind the community about where it’s loyalty should be.
How the community itself views its role, is a difficult question to answer. Although, the community often works closely with Pakistan’s Embassy in the US, however, it does not necessarily toe its line. Influential members of the community often work in individual capacity and have lacked intellectual depth and organizational capacity to define and implement its long-term function. PoliTact plans to perform more research work in this area.