tjir6-1_2f - Religion as a Site of Boundary Construction:...

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Religion as a Site of Boundary Construction: Islam and the Integration of Turkish Americans in the United States İ lhan Kaya* Introduction The United States’ religious and ethnic landscape has dramatically changed since alterations to its immigration laws went into effect in 1965. Among the reasons for this change are the increasing number of Muslim immigrants and conversions to Islam in the U. S. (Eck 2001). Although no reliable figures exist regarding the size of the Muslim population in the U. S., it has been estimated that the number ranges between 7 and 8 million (Kaya, 2005). The United States has a larger Muslim population than the predominantly Muslim countries of Kuwait, Qatar, and Libya combined (Haddad and Esposito 1998). However, the U. S. has a more diverse Muslim population than any Muslim country, as Muslims of all nationalities and ethnic groups have been immigrating to the United States for decades. While this is the case, Muslim Americans are often represented as a monolithic group. Their cultural, national, social, and political differences are overlooked and their successes are frequently unrecognized. Muslim immigrants are one of the most highly educated immigrant groups in the United States, with a figure of forty-nine percent reportedly having at least a bachelor’s degree (Camarota 2002). Fifty-five percent of Middle Eastern immigrants hold American citizenship (Camarota 2002). This information indicates that Islam is no longer a distant or ‘foreign’ tradition in America; it is part of American social, cultural, and political life regardless of any efforts to represent it otherwise (Takim 2004). 139
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Muslim landscapes can be seen in many of American cities as over 3000 mosques exist throughout the US. Two thirds of these mosques were founded after 1980, which indicates that the vast majority of Muslim Americans are recent immigrants (Wuthnow and Hackett 2003). However, the representation of Muslims in America suggests a marginalized image of Islam and Muslim Americans. First of all, Islam is often seen as an alien religion outside the ‘norm’ of predominantly Christian America. The complicated historical relationship between the Muslim world and the West has created significant negative images in the public mind in both the West and the Muslim world. On the one hand, memories of the Crusades, colonialism, and Western influences and interventions in the Muslim world have shaped public sentiment and understanding of the West among Muslims around the world. The distorted representation of Muslims and Islam by ‘Orientalists’ and the media have caused Muslims to be suspicious of the West and the United States (Said 1997). On the other hand, historical Muslim penetrations into Christian lands, and various terrorist attacks over the last two decades, have caused many people in the West, including the United States, to view Muslims with suspicion. This distrust between
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This note was uploaded on 02/01/2012 for the course HIST 494 taught by Professor Haus during the Fall '11 term at Boise State.

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tjir6-1_2f - Religion as a Site of Boundary Construction:...

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