Sub-Group Americans in Muslim Countries Thesis

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Americans in Muslim Countries

Minority Communities: The Effects and Challenges of Americans Living in Muslim Countries

Few minority groups in the United States in the past decade have received as much direct attention, both from the media and from the political and scientific communities, than Muslims. Indeed, Islamic radicalism and fundamentalism has raised many questions about the religion and its adherents -- most of whom, it should be noted, are not radical or fundamentalists -- on the global scale. Islam is also one of the fastest growing religions in the world, making this demographic one not only worthy of study, but demanding it. The focus on most of the scholarship concerning this group over the last decade, however, has dealt with the interactions and assimilation of Muslims into the wider Western world, and though this topic is certainly worthy of further study and research, it does not present a full picture of the way in which Muslims interact with the world, and in fact ignores many other related minority groups.

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One such demographic that has changed radically since the beginning of the current century, both in numbers and in situation, is the group of Americans living abroad in Muslim-dominated countries. Such religious dominance occurs both politically and socially; that is, there are many Muslim countries that are not theocracies, but that still have predominantly Muslim cultures and societies. There are also, of course, many Muslim theocracies, and it is in these countries that many of the problems associated with minority groups can be seen to arise. As much as the issues of assimilation -- or non-assimilation -- and intercultural conflicts involving Muslims in this country have been studied, they have been ignored regarding Americans living abroad.

Thesis on Sub-Group Americans in Muslim Countries Assignment

It is true that there is not nearly as significant a population of Americans living in Muslim counties as there are Muslims living here. This does not mean that the issues Americans in Muslim countries face are not worthy of examination and analysis, however. There are many American and other Western individuals living in Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and others, many of them only for periods of several months or years, and some for much longer portions of their lives. These American foreigners can be confronted with many different issues relating to their status as a minority and as cultural and religious oddities, including feelings of isolation and estrangement, which can possibly lead to depression, and in other more extreme cases to more severe psychological issues.

In general, however, the issues faced by most Americans living in Muslim countries involve culture clashes and direct anti-American sentiment. These issues can lead to simple misunderstandings, or quickly become major incidents involving one or both of the governments of the Muslim country and the United States of America. The question remains, however, why most Americans are able to live there lives successfully and in relative peace and happiness in Muslim countries, whereas other individuals seem to find it far more difficult. This research attempts to address this question, with results that are unfortunately not too surprising to the more cynical minded. Money, the true source of power in today's world (and the source of evil, according to some), seems to be at the heart of many of these issues.

Compilation of Research

Research addressing this question was quite difficult to come by; given the perception (based on a great deal of reality) of American cultural dominance, the phenomenon -- quite easily observable and predictable in many situations -- of Americans living with a minority status and experiencing an extreme cultural divide has gone woefully under-researched. An understanding of the variance in Americans' situations from country to country, however, can be obtained from the many studies regarding the general sentiment towards Americans in the Muslim countries with significant populations of Americans living within their borders. A variety of studies with this perspective and goal concerning several different Muslim countries with American populations were collected and analyzed for the purposes of this study, providing a solid foundation for future research into more detailed cases of American minorityship.

The studies reviewed and analyzed in this paper do contain some information regarding specific cases of American interaction with the Muslim citizens and culture that are native to the countries in which they live, but such anecdotal evidence would not paint as accurate a picture of the various situations faced by Americans in different Muslim countries as the statistical and survey data that provides the bulk of the available research. Such information is far more valuable in predicting the likely experience of other Americans within the country. Anecdotal evidence can be found to support almost any conclusion, but the changing sentiments of various Muslim countries towards Americans, both outside of and within their own borders, is best measured on the large scale, and reveals interesting correlations with other features of the Muslim countries' government, economy, and especially the political and economic relationships of these countries with the United States of America.

Analysis

A large underlying cause of the problems that Americans face in other countries is, of course, the major religious difference that exists between the Americans -- who are predominantly Christian but generally not very religious -- and their Muslim neighbors, who even though not fundamentalists have a much more pervasive set of religious beliefs. Roger Friedland (2001) notes that religious beliefs in the modern era seem to permeate nationalist sentiments to a much higher degree than in previous centuries, possibly due to the increasing interaction taking place between people of disparate religions and ethnicities. Anyone living in a country with a dominant religion different from their own will feel exclusionary pressures on both a religious and nationalistic level, then, making their isolation more than simply ideological (Friedland 2001).

Since Friedland's writing nationalistic sentiments have only been on the rise in many Muslim countries and regions, as is evidenced by the heightened aggression displayed by Iran, the election of Hamas in Gaza, and many other connected incidents. From this, it can easily be extrapolated that the level of religious fervor, especially as it relates to nationalistic sentiments, would be fairly good predictor of an American's happiness living in the country. The greater the level of religious dominance in a given Muslim country, the less likely an American living in that country is to be happy and adjust well to the society and culture. Sentiments against them will not only be raised by religious differences, but on nationalistic lines as well.

This ties directly into the concept of citizenship, which can be perceived both as an official and governmental concept and as a social phenomenon that is dependent not on forms and signatures, but personalities and societal roles as well (Bloemraad et al. 2008). Differences in North American perspectives on citizenship and those found in other countries can lead to problems with assimilation and sociability (Bloemraad et al. 2008). In addition, research has shown that moving internationally can cause major shifts in individual perspectives regarding citizenship and national identity; in countries where nationalistic sentiments are strongest then, these feelings of alienation and nationalistic confusion would become even stronger, which explains why Americans living in incredibly strict Muslim theocratic countries have greater assimilation difficulties than in other countries (Bloemraad et al. 2008).

Feelings of ethnicity are also incredibly important in determining a sense of social identity and cooperation, and issues involving ethnicity are also unfortunately common among Americans living in Muslim countries (Yinger 1985). Just as with feelings of religion and nationalism, the strength and uniformity of ethnic dominance in a given country will have a profound effect on the assimilation and happiness of foreigners living in that country (Yinger 1985). Many Muslim countries do have a very high degree of ethnic uniformity, especially in the Middle East region where the majority of Muslim countries are located (and which have more abundant populations of Americans than most of the African and Asian Muslim countries), and this difference alone could account for many of the problems Americans living in Muslim countries might face. This difference, unlike nationalism and religion, is apparent by one's physical appearance, making it an inescapable and indelible mark of otherness (Yinger 1985). Ethnicity, then, finishes off the trio of main causes of assimilation problems.

Of course, the three areas of nationalism, religion, and ethnicity are all very much interrelated, especially in Muslim countries. An American's ethnic appearance (assuming a basically Caucasian and/or Anglo-Saxon origin and appearance) would make them quite noticeable in many Muslim countries, which are predominantly Arab in ethnicity (in the Middle East, that is). This unavoidable difference of ethnicity could -- and does -- lead to many beliefs regarding an individual's religious and nationalistic beliefs, as well, meaning that by dint of their ethnic differences Americans living in Muslim countries are automatically identified as different on all tree counts. To this point, the research has only shown this in a very general way, but there are specific examples that make this… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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