Becoming American: A Q and A with Yvonne Haddad
In your book, you discuss the diversity of the American Muslim community and ways in which post-9/11 attacks on the community have increased a sense of Muslim unity, particularly between the mosqued and un-mosqued. Does a newfound sense of social solidarity translate into political solidarity?
It is hard to say. During the last presidential election, there was a very active Republican Muslim organization that worked for the McCain-Palin ticket. The current coterie of Republican presidential hopefuls include several candidates that have publicly demonized Muslims, including a few that questioned their loyalty and ruled out having them serve in their administration. It is hard to find many Republican Muslims at the moment. However, the Muslim community displays the same variety of political commitments as the general American public. They are fully aware that their votes count and are increasingly engaged in political activity, meeting with nominees, fund raising, and campaigning.
In a recent Pew Forum survey, U.S. Muslims expressed significantly higher satisfaction with their lives, their local communities and the country's general direction than the public at large. What do you think accounts for this optimism among Muslims about life in America despite an increasingly hostile environment since 9/11?
My surveys show that they love the country and want to be active productive citizens. The new citizens among them can hardly be expected to voice dissatisfaction, since that would lead to being the target of Islamophobes, as well as the security agencies of the United States. They believe in the promise of America—"out of many, one"—and believe that just as once-reviled Catholics and Jews have been accepted as constituent members of the nation, the day is not far off when Islam and Muslims will also be accepted.
What is your sense of how the next generation of Muslim-Americans will engage with the political and cultural landscape of America?
The next generation is increasingly defining itself as American-Muslim, with special emphasis on their being an integral part of America. They are engaged in creating and fostering an Islam which is at home in America, one that espouses American values. In books, poetry, novels, plays, videos, film and music, they are weaving their experience into the American kaleidoscope.
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