Steve Chapman

Most American Muslims are about as radical as Jay Leno. A 2007 survey by Pew found that only 5 percent have a favorable view of al-Qaida -- a number that drops to 3 percent among foreign-born Muslims. Far from praying daily for the rise of Islamic extremism, 61 percent said they were worried about it.

Unlike the alienated Muslim populations of Europe, American Muslims do not feel estranged from society. "Most say their communities are excellent or good places to live," Pew discovered. Most also believe women are better off in the United States than in Muslim countries.

Their overall satisfaction with the state of the country is no different, according to Pew, from the overall satisfaction of everyone else. They don't sound like a violent cult plotting to impose Taliban-style Shariah law on the infidels who surround them. They sound strangely like ... Americans.

Which is what they are. For the most part, Muslims have achieved integration and acceptance. Only a quarter of them say they have ever suffered discrimination. Most have many non-Muslim friends.

Could that be because non-Muslims do not regard them with fear and loathing? Hate crimes against Muslims do not support the charge that Americans are frothing Islamophobes. In 2008, there were only 105 anti-Muslim incidents, compared with 1,013 against Jews.

What we see in action here is the powerful influence of deeply rooted ideas about assimilation, tolerance and freedom. Americans generally see Muslims as just one more ingredient in the national melting pot. Muslims mostly identify with our way of life.

The tensions and conflicts in evidence in our public debates do exist, but they give a misleading picture of modern American society. The reality is the one proclaimed by the Founders: E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.


Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.
 

 
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