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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

‘All American Muslim’ — A Lost Opportunity At Understanding

A few words on what American Muslims need.

We were discussing this, an olive-skinned Muslim man and I, at a banquet last year, when he said a wistful, poignant thing that has stayed with me ever since. “We thought we were white,” he said.

Not “white” in the sense of race, whatever that unscientific word means. Rather, white in the sense of assimilation and admission, white in the sense of people from Ireland, Armenia, Cuba, Hungary, southern Italy and other places who, upon arriving here, were regarded as threatening, nonwhite outsiders and required to earn their whiteness, their acceptance, over several generations. When the man said American Muslims thought they were white, he meant they thought they had successfully navigated the trail blazed by all those other people from all those other places.