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Issue Brief 33

Issue Brief 33

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Published by mounir3523
AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR CONTEMPORARY GERMAN STUDIES ■ THE JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY

AICGSISSUEBRIEF
DECEMBER 2009


Similarities in Difference: The Challenge of Muslim Integration in Germany and the United States
BY MOUNIR AZZAOUI
AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR CONTEMPORARY GERMAN STUDIES ■ THE JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY

AICGSISSUEBRIEF
DECEMBER 2009


Similarities in Difference: The Challenge of Muslim Integration in Germany and the United States
BY MOUNIR AZZAOUI

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Published by: mounir3523 on Sep 28, 2010
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How do the Muslim popu-lations in the U.S. andGermany differ?Does the lack of a state-sanctioned Islamic“church” lead to thefurther isolation ofMuslims in Germany?Is the stigmatization ofMuslim organizations inthe U.S. detrimental toMuslim integration?
Similarities in Difference: The Challenge ofMuslim Integration in Germany and theUnited States
BY MOUNIR AZZAOUI
33
AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR CONTEMPORARY GERMAN STUDIES
THE JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY
DECEMBER 2009
In September 2009, only a few days after assuming his post, the new U.S. Ambassador toGermany, Philip D. Murphy, twice invited Muslims to “Iftar,” the evening meal during the Islamicfasting period of Ramadan at which Muslims break from their fast. In so doing, he continueda tradition that was established after 9/11 and the U.S. troop deployments in Afghanistan andIraq, and which is part of a larger strategy to broaden contacts with European Muslims. Thatstrategy includes not only a meeting between then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice andMuslims in Berlin in 2007, but an entire collection of initiatives: International LeadershipPrograms for Muslims, presentations, and publications about the lives of U.S. Muslims. Thebackground that motivates these efforts in public diplomacy includes the conviction on the partof the U.S. administration that the integration of Muslims in Europe is severely deficient, notleast because some of the terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks on the United States camefrom Germany. This criticism was expressed in unusually blunt language in diplomatic circlesby Daniel Fried, then-Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, to hisGerman counterparts.
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Karsten Voigt, then-Coordinator for German-American Cooperation,heard the criticism: “They [the Americans] are convinced: We do it better [integrate Muslimsinto society]. We can be an example. But in such a conceptualization, they forget that here [inEurope] and there [in the United States], when talking about Muslims, we are talking about atotally different social and geopolitical group, on the one side and the other.”
2
German foundations and associations in Washington, D.C. were initially unprepared to handletopics on religion and politics. But since 2007, German political and cultural foundations inWashington have been working on programs to present information about the socio-economicstatus and other circumstances of Muslims on both sides of the Atlantic through a variety ofevents in order to demonstrate that Germany is a multi-cultural society and that it is inappro-priate to speak of a failed integration policy in Germany. Muslims in Germany, however, havewelcomed the dialogue begun by the U.S. in Germany. The speaker for the CoordinationCouncil of Muslims in Germany, Ayyub Köhler, speaking at one of the U.S. Iftar receptions in
AICGS
ISSUE
BRIEF
Political Context
 
22007, praised the U.S. initiative and stated that a similar effortfrom German policymakers was missing; but he also indicated,critically, that there were limits to the U.S. effort and that theU.S. could only regain lasting and effective rapport with theMuslim community if it ended its wars in Islamic countries.Security issues have played a central role from the beginningof the European-German-American dialogue. While the begin-ning of the debate was characterized largely by accusations,the discussion has developed more nuanced in the last year.The transatlantic discussion about Muslims in Europe and theUnited States is characterized by the peculiarity that, althoughthere are some parallels within Europe about integratingMuslims, among European states there are also at timesstriking, specific distinctions in the experiences of each statedepending on the unique political cultures and church-staterelations. For that reason, broad comparisons between Europein general and the United States could seldom be formulatedin the discussion. A transatlantic debate about the condition ofMuslims in the United States and Germany in particular willcertainly be more fruitful.The following sections of this Issue Brief will first point outcentral differences between the circumstances of Muslims inGermany and the United States and will highlight the implica-tions of these differences for the German-American dialogue.Second, this essay intends to show that Germany and theUnited States alike have difficulties integrating Muslims andtheir religious organizations into society and similar challengesto overcome, which require appropriate political and socialresponses.
Indigenous and Immigrant Islam
“We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock; Plymouth Rock landed onus.” This well-known expression by Malcolm X not onlydescribes the experience of the African slaves and theirdescendants but is also part of the history of Islam in the UnitedStates. About 15 to 20 percent of the slaves brought to theUnited States, numbering about two to three million, wereWest African Muslims. Islam could withstand the oppressiveconditions for centuries, especially as long as new Muslimslaves were brought to America.
3
Islam in America then prob-ably “died out” in the late nineteenth century, but was revital-ized in the early twentieth century by African-American Muslimgroups, like Nation of Islam. The late Warith Dean Mohammedsteered the majority of the community in the last decades in thedirection of Sunni Islam and broke with the racist elements ofthe Nation of Islam. African-American Muslims today accountfor about one-third of American Muslims, and as such, makethe United States the only Western country to have such alarge number of indigenous Muslims. This circumstance makesit more difficult for the U.S. to depict Islam as something foreignand un-American, as happens in Europe. The depiction ismade even more difficult because only about 10 percent ofnew immigrants in the U.S. are Muslim. In contrast, the numberof German-born converts to Islam and their descendants isabout 1 percent of the total Muslim population. Thus, an over-whelming majority of Muslims are immigrants and, furthermore,most of the total number of immigrants are Muslim. In Germany,Islam is connected to Germany’s “guest-worker program.” JoséCasanova’s statement, “The immigrant, the religious, the racial,and the socio-economic disprivileged other all tend to coin-cide”
4
clearly applies in Germany.
“Islam is like Spanish”
5
In Germany, the estimated number of Muslims as a percentageof the total population is around 4.6 to 5.2 percent (3.8 to 4.5million people) while in the United States it is about 1.6 to 2.0percent (5 to 7 million people). At such a level, Muslims are thethird largest religious community in Germany, after Catholicsand Protestants. In view of the relative size of the Muslimcommunity in Germany and the debate about identity and thefact that the Hispanic community is the largest ethnic minoritygroup in the United States (15.4 percent of the population)with its own identity issues, comparison of these two commu-nities might be a useful focal point in the future.
6
Despite thestructural and institutional differences current examinations ofMuslim communities in Germany and the U.S. can still yielduseful results.
Diversity, Dynamics, and Ties Abroad
Muslims in the United States are a more diverse group thanMuslims in Germany. In Germany, Muslims come from fiftydifferent countries, whereas in the United States, Muslimscome from sixty-eight different countries and display a higherdiversity within those countries. In Germany, the number ofMuslims originally from Turkey accounts, at 68 percent, for thevast majority. The next nearest group, Arabs, accounts for only15 percent and southeastern Europeans (Balkans) 14 percent.In contrast, in the United States, there are three relativelyequally large groups: African-Americans (20%), Arabs (24%),and South Asians (18%); a combination of small groups froma variety of other geographical areas accounts for the
 
3remainder and constitutes the majority (38%). The Muslimcommunity in the United States could be seen as a “micro-cosm” of the Muslim world. This circumstance can be consid-ered particular to the United States; nowhere else in the worldwill one find such a diverse collection of Muslims. It is alsoremarkable that, according to Gallup, the Muslim communitywithin the United States is “the most racially diverse commu-nity in the United States” compared to other religious commu-nities.
7
This circumstance means that the integrationexperience of Muslims in the United States is more dynamicand complex than is the case for Muslims in Germany. Thediversity among the Muslim community in the United Statesalso results in greater interaction and cooperation betweenMuslims from different countries and the significant use ofEnglish in religious contexts, notably in Friday sermons, sinceit is the only common language among various groups. Eventhough about a third of Muslims in Germany are not fromTurkey, most of the discussions in the Muslim community inGermany are led by Turkish Muslims. Turkish dominance inGermany is magnified by the very strong connections Turkshave abroad. The largest Muslim organization in Germany, theTurkish-Islamic Union of the Institute of Religion (DITIB), whichincludes about 550 mosques, is a branch of the Departmentof Religious Affairs in Turkey (Diyanet). Not only is the chairmanof the organization a counselor of the Turkish embassy in Berlin,but hundreds of Imams are sent to Germany as civil servantsby the Turkish state. Most of these Imams do not speakGerman and are unfamiliar with the German lifestyle. After theyhave become accustomed to living in the German environ-ment, many are then reassigned to Turkey and replaced by newImams with the consequence that the same problems repeatthemselves.
Socio-Economic Differences
The immigration of Muslims to the United States for educa-tional purposes, especially after the Second World War, ledmany Muslims from Arabic and South Asian countries to stayin the United States after completing a degree. As a conse-quence, most American Muslims are well educated and well-placed economically. American Muslims’ income is identical tothe American average; i.e., they “are middle class and mostlymainstream.”
8
By contrast, in Germany Muslims are dispro-portionately underrepresented in the upper economic stratumand disproportionately overrepresented in the lower stratum ofthe income range. Overall, German Muslims earn much lessthan the average German. Similarly, regarding education U.S.Muslims are comparable to the U.S. average whereas the levelof education for German Muslims is significantly lower than theaverage for the total population. This disparity in Germany canbe attributed to the fact that most labor migrants and theirfamilies come from under-educated class backgrounds. Thediscussion of social problems in Germany is often conflatedwith questions of faith traditions, such that Islam is perceivedas a “working-class religion” and the religion is blamed forsocial problems. Here in particular, the German-Americandialogue could contribute to refuting this perception andshowing that there is no causal connection between faith andsocial problems. The United States, with its well-educated andsocio-economically successful Muslim community, demon-strates this point clearly. Instead of “Islamizing” problems, polit-ical will is needed to change the system to ensure that all haveequal opportunity and to turn what Muslims and members ofimmigrant backgrounds have to offer into an advantage.
Common Good
The high education level and the relatively high income of U.S.Muslims are mirrored in the professionalism and the visionaryfocus of American Muslim organizations that have grown overpast years. Organizations such as the Muslim Public AffairsCouncil conduct very professional public relations andcombine this with a theologically well-grounded vision of an“American Islam.” The Council of Islamic Organizations ofGreater Chicago (CIOGC), which consists mainly of mosques,has achieved a very good reputation and many U.S. Muslimsview this organization as a model for the development ofregional and state-wide organizations in other parts of the U.S.This year’s “MuslimAction!Day,” organized by the CIOGC, isnot only proof of Muslims’ adherence to democratic rules, butthe foci on education reform, opposition to online gambling,and reduction of greenhouse emissions, also show thatMuslims have begun to grapple more with issues of communalwelfare. The only topic that had a direct relation to the Muslimcommunity aimed at strengthening Arabic language instructionin public schools. But even this topic was put in an Americancontext: as an issue that is good for the community and goodfor America, namely, that knowledge of Arabic is important forenhancing security and increasing the global competitivenessof the United States. Another example of social engagementis the Ummah Community Clinic in California, financed mainlyby Muslim doctors, where needy patients are treated regard-less of their religion. Muslims in Germany can learn from theseorganizations and actions that serve society as a whole. Untilnow, Muslims and Muslim organizations in Germany focus theirwork primarily on religious and political topics that concernsthem. If Muslims in Germany were able to get involved indebates and action for the common good, they would meettheir religious obligations as well as improve the perception ofIslam more than any campaign would.

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