How do you feel about the boundaries many draw between Arab-American neighbors?

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A
re “Arab” and “American” compatible?
   How about “Hispanic”
and “American”?
   Or “Muslim” and “American”?
   Some
influential scholars, such as Samuel Huntington, say no—the values
of these groups are a threat to the cultural unity of America. There is, he says, a clash of civilizations.
   Other scholars (like
me) strongly disagree with his assessment.
   What
about Americans in general—the so-called mainstream? How do
they feel? About half of the general population in the Detroit
region agrees with Huntington in saying that the cause of 9/11 was the conflict
between Christianity and Judaism on one side and Islam on the other.
   The
mainstream is less accepting of Arab Americans than of any other group—African
Americans, Hispanics, or Asians. They prefer more “social distance”
from Arab Americans than from anyone else. For example, they’d
rather have anyone as a neighbor rather than an Arab American. That’s a harsh assessment, but it’s what Ren Farley and colleagues
learned in a survey conducted in the Detroit region a few years after
9/11.
   Just
because most Arab Americans are legal citizens (see yesterday’s post)
doesn’t mean that they are fully accepted in society or that they
are afforded the same protections. Legal citizenship is different
from cultural citizenship. For instance, about half of the general population
supports increasing surveillance of Arab Americans. About 40%
support the detention of suspicious Arabs or Muslims even without sufficient
evidence to prosecute them.

   PLEASE UNDERSTAND: I know that the
topic this week is controversial. But I hope you will make a comment
and help us have a civil and lively discussion of values. For
me, the precarious situation of Arab Americans (and other groups, such
as Hispanic Americans) is a litmus test of the kind of society America
is—can the kind we want it to be.

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