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God, country, or both? A reader's take on the American Muslims-Muslim Americans quandary

Marching in last year's annual Muslim Day parade in New York, September 26, 2010
Marching in last year's annual Muslim Day parade in New York, September 26, 2010
Photo by NewMediaNormaRae/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A guest post yesterday examined the uncomfortable position in which Muslims in the United States have found themselves during the past decade, forced to defend their patriotism in the post-9/11 era. Part of this involves self-identification: Should they identify themselves as American Muslims, or as Muslim Americans?

KPCC intern Yasmin Nouh looked at different arguments for identifying as one or the other, including one Muslim blogger's argument that using "American Muslim" helps diffuse "the foundational attacks that Muslims are not real Americans and that Islam is a threat to America."

Reader Josy, NYC posted a thoughtful comment that pointed out how, while under quite different circumstances, similar discussions have taken place among other minority groups when patriotism is questioned. She wrote:

The questions raised in this article are complicated and fraught, but they are not new. They have been grappled with by generation after generation of both native-born and immigrant American of every religion and national origin.

One of the most significant guideposts for me came at a Passover dinner back in 1987, when Jonathan Pollard was put in jail for passing secrets to the Israeli government.

I asked a question of two U.S.-born relatives: my aunt, a Conservative Jew whom I'd seen devoting every spare moment of her adulthood to Jewish and Israeli causes, and a distant cousin, an Orthodox Jewish man whose life was equally devoted to these causes. I wanted to know whether they would have spied for Israel had the call ever come.

I fully expected to hear them express, at the very least, conflicted loyalty. After all, both felt deeply that, as Jews, Israel's existence was tied to their own, and both had grown up at a time in which overt anti-Semitism was accepted and institutionalized across American society.

Instead, the two turned to me at once and said - practically in unison - that they would never be disloyal to America. I think they were shocked I'd even wondered.

They were rock-steady in their conviction that the United States was their home and their country, and that their allegiance as citizens belonged here. Having both worked with people from around the world, they also knew that despite the religious beliefs and practices that deeply unite the few million Jews scattered across the globe, there is a real variance in cultural and political beliefs between the Jews of different countries. In other words it was meaningful to call themselves American Jews.