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Monday, August 21, 2006

Muslims in America

No they don't have two heads

Pakistanis Find U.S. an Easier Fit Than Britain

Published: August 21, 2006

CHICAGO, Aug. 18 — The stretch of Devon Avenue in North Chicago also named for Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, seems as if it has been transplanted directly from that country. The shops are packed with traditional wedding finery, and the spice mix in the restaurants’ kebabs is just right.

Similar enclaves in Britain have been under scrutiny since they have proved to be a breeding ground for cells of terrorists, possibly including the 24 men arrested recently as suspects in a plot to blow up airliners flying out of London.

Yet Devon Avenue is in many ways different. Although heavily Pakistani, the street is far more exposed to other cultures than are similar communities in Britain.

Indian Hindus have a significant presence along the roughly one-and-a-half-mile strip of boutiques, whose other half is named for Gandhi. What was a heavily Jewish neighborhood some 20 years ago also includes recent immigrants from Colombia, Mexico and Ukraine, among others.

“There is integration even when you have an enclave,” said Nizam Arain, 32, a lawyer of Pakistani descent who was born and raised in Chicago. “You don’t have the same siege mentality.”

Even so, members of the Pakistani immigrant community here find themselves joining the speculation as to whether sinister plots could be hatched in places like Devon (pronounced deh-VAHN) Avenue.

The most common response is no, at least not now, because of differences that have made Pakistanis in the United States far better off economically and more assimilated culturally than their counterparts in Britain. But some Pakistani-Americans do not rule out the possibility, given how little is understood about the exact tipping point that pushes angry young Muslim men to accept an ideology that endorses suicide and mass murder.

The idea of a relatively smaller, more prosperous, more striving immigrant community inoculating against terror cells goes only so far, they say.

“It makes it sound like it couldn’t happen here because we are the good immigrants: hard-working, close-knit, educated,” said Junaid Rana, an assistant professor of Asian-American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an American-born son of Pakistani immigrants. “But we are talking about a cult mind-set, how a cult does its brainwashing.”

Yet one major difference between the United States and Britain, some say, is the United States’ historical ideal of being a melting-pot meritocracy.

“You can keep the flavor of your ethnicity, but you are expected to become an American,” said Omer Mozaffar, 34, a Pakistani-American raised here who is working toward a doctorate in Islamic studies at the University of Chicago.

Britain remains far more rigid. In the United States, for example, Pakistani physicians are more likely to lead departments at hospitals or universities than they are in Britain, said Dr. Tariq H. Butt, a 52-year-old family physician who arrived in the United States 25 years ago for his residency.

Nationwide, Pakistanis appear to be prospering. The census calculated that mean household income in the United States in 2002 was $57,852 annually, while that for Asian households, which includes Pakistanis, was $70,047. By contrast, about one-fifth of young British-born Muslims are jobless, and many subsist on welfare.
The attitude of the American government in adopting terms like “Islamic fascists” and deporting large numbers of immigrants, he said, makes Muslims feel marked, as if they do not belong here. “The society in the United States is much fairer to foreigners than anywhere else,” he said, “but that mood is changing.”

posted by Steve @ 1:48:00 AM

1:48:00 AM

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