The history of Islamic religion and culture in America is somewhat complex due to multiple political and socioeconomic issues. Reflecting on the position of Islamic culture in America provides a way of understanding the effect of politics on culture and communication, which is essential for improving cultural awareness. The present essay will seek to offer a reflection about Islam in America, both in terms of historical trends and the present position.
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The United States is a diverse country with multiple large religious communities. Today, Islam forms the most significant religious community in America after Christianity, which is mainly due to immigration from Islamic countries. As noted by Williams (2017), Islam was part of the Founding Fathers’ vision for religious diversity in America: “The Founders of this nation explicitly included Islam in their vision of the future of the republic” (para. 5).
Nevertheless, large-scale immigration from Islamic countries only began in the early 20th century. A significant inflow of migrants from African and Arabic countries created large Islamic communities all across the country. Particularly in large cities, Muslim populations became quite prominent. To accommodate for newly-formed Muslim communities, people built Mosques, thus allowing Muslim people to worship freely (Williams, 2017). For decades, Islam co-existed with other religions and cultures in the United States. However, one point that marked a significant change in how Islam is perceived was the 9/11 terror attack.
The events of 9/11 marked a turning point in the relationship between Islam and other cultures in America and had a profound effect on the lives of Muslim people in the United States. The War on Terror, initiated by the U.S. Government shortly after the attack, contributed to this effect. As shown by Ross-Sheriff (2017), in the post-9/11 world, Muslim people experienced increased discrimination and prejudice.
Islamophobia is a relatively new phenomenon, but it has already affected the lives of thousands of Muslims living in the U.S. and Europe. In essence, islamophobia reflects the lack of understanding of Islamic culture and religion or a biased view that is primarily based on the stories of terror attacks broadcasted by the media. Today, this form of discrimination is evident in society, workplaces, and even in the government.
The changes in people’s attitudes towards Islam after 9/11 and the start of the War on Terror caused a shift in Islamic culture and its presence in America. Muslim communities became somewhat isolated from the rest of the society. Discrimination in the workplace and schools added to this effect, increasing the gap between Muslim Americans and other cultural groups. The recent government program against immigration from the Middle East is an example of growing alienation experienced by people of Islamic backgrounds.
Isolation from the society caused a change in Islamic culture and strengthened Muslim communities on the inside, providing a sense of joined identity for some people. Other people, however, became wary of identifying with their culture and religion in public to avoid discrimination, prejudice, and harassment.
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Overall, Islamic culture plays a prominent role in today’s America. Muslim populations are evident in all of the states and contribute to the country’s cultural and religious diversity. However, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, many Muslims experience negative attitudes and discrimination, as well as alienation. Some people view this as an opportunity to reconnect with their cultural identity, whereas others avoid exposing their background in fear of prejudice. Although the presence of Islam in the U.S. remains significant, it is essential to prevent the discrimination of Muslim people to avoid negative consequences and build stronger, more diverse communities.
Ross-Sheriff, F. (2017). Personal and professional reflections on Islam, social work, and social welfare in the USA. Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work: Social Thought, 36(1-2), 6-24.
Williams, J. (2017). A brief history of Islam in America. Vox. Web.