American-Muslims and the Muted Debate on Internal Pluralism
The rainbow of Muslim diversity in the US is continuously adding new colors, and the collective identity of American Muslims is evolving as their lives unfold within varied experiences. While diversity on the ground should ideally be matched with perceptual schemes for coordinating such diversity, the discourse on pluralism among American Muslims oscillates between two utopian visions: hygienic Islamic unity and hygienic Americanism.
In the case of Muslims, the paper envisions a virtual moral community that rises above minority centrism and ethnic politics, a community in which universality forms its perceptual framework, Islamic ethics constitute its organizing principles, and ethnicity acts as meaning and experience placeholder. Such imagined community would concurrently embrace American life and relish in hybrid cultural heritages.
Culture, in reference to the fate of minority groups, stands for a three-pronged generative resource that functions as: (1) a meaning system that coaches group members’ motivation and the perception of their lived reality, furnishing an imaginative space of peoplehood; (2) a locus of connectedness that anchors individuals to social structure and coalesces groups’ efforts toward collective goals; and (3) a conduit for crucial social information that fosters economically facilitative norms.
The paper proceeds to focus on the case of American Muslims and how crucial for them to appreciate their own internal diversity. After a brief discussion of post-911 assimilation pressures, the paper develops an integration model that is more consistent with the realities of the Muslim communities in the US.
Read the paper: American Muslims-pluralism muted
American Muslims represent a normative minority, yet, they live in a reality where race and ethnicity loom large. This paper argues that the ethnic dynamics of the American life are highly meaningful in explaining American Muslim reality and their future. Those dynamics include cultural and structural dimensions, which call for a conceptualization of the varied paths of integration that Muslims can potentially assume. Informed by the trajectories of American ethnic minorities, this paper asserts that the integration of a minority group within the majority society is a dynamic process of negotiation. While economics and politics carve structural niches for minorities, their lived reality is ultimately determined by the interaction between the material conditions of those structural niches and the cultural webs in which the collective souls of minority members reside. To analyze such complex terms of integration, the paper revisits the conceptualization of ethnicity, synthesizing elements from the primordial and the constructivist perspectives—interests and circumstances that mold the lives of minority groups are acknowledged as well as the symbolic qualities of their shared memories. Similarly, in order to account adequately for the otherwise fluid use of the concept of culture, the paper differentiates between cultural preservation, cultural maintenance, and cultural resilience. Those represent three strategies in which a minority manages its culture in reference to the pervasive societal culture. The stance of the dominant majority and its view of the minority are also considered. The paper argues that the combination of structural violence reflected in the depreciation of the minority’s material resources, and cultural violence reflected in the devaluation of symbolic capital, lead to the decay of the communities, pushing them into a vicious circle of social decay. The main contribution of the paper lies in theorizing how the well-being of a minority group is predicated upon the level of its cultural reliance.
Read the paper: American Muslims-cultural resilience