Why American identity

Why Muslims of America need American identity

M.Akhtar, Ph.D

It is an established fact that to avail the benefits from America, or any society, immigrants have to adjust to American ways in order to be accepted. The fuller the adjustment, the fuller is the acceptance. Muslims need American identity for full acceptance and for full membership into “in-group”. Naturally, the society has a differential scale for “in-group” as opposed to the “other-group” for its reward- punishment distribution. For middle to high-level jobs that presuppose skills and their certifications in the form of credentials, Muslims have little difficulty. It is on the highest managerial kind of positions that Muslims have huge difficulty for several reasons. They have difficulty attaining these types of positions because these positions seem to require more than what meets the eye, or what can be defined in specified skills. Or they are positions that presuppose public trust and confidence, or are government positions with security concerns, or high political offices, which command a following of the masses and require proven loyalty- refer to the previous discussion on Obama and symbolic loyalty,which underscores the tactic to brand Obama as Muslim and symbolized being “other” than American and therefore his loyalty was suspect; presidential and all such high public positions would be inaccessible to Muslims. To remedy this issue Muslims must clarify their loyalty and establish their American identity, if they want power, influence, dignity or just sheer acceptance from American society.

So far the gains suggested from identity were at the level of the society, but let us not overlook the less obvious gains at the Psychological level that Muslims need for their internal harmony and mental health. Muslims who start out with their old identity and refuse to adjust to or even acknowledge the live forces that surround them in America would suffer failures and the resulting sense of inferiority and despair. Some people may ignore their basic beliefs and go ahead with their American pursuits and achieve success. This pretense may work to a degree but sooner or later it will catch up in the form of serious internal conflicts causing depression, anxiety or other disorders. For best adjustment what Muslims need (Akhtar, 2007, p 91) is a predominant acceptance of American forces, not necessarily all the American practices, that will allow for the American identity. Be aware that American identity has to be integrated in a compatible fashion, not just co-exist with the old identity. While Muslims ethnic identity would be most incompatible, Islamic identity will nicely combine with American practices- to be discussed later.

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