On May 15, a conference on ‘Immigration, Integration and Identity in Europe and the United States’ took place in the U.S. Capitol, which the Austrian EU Presidency helped organize. The timing of the event couldn’t have been more appropriate.
One of the lessons of this conference was that the historical and political contexts in which Europe and the United States address their problems of immigration and integration are so different that they defy close comparison.
Another lesson was that on both continents, similar misperceptions about our immigrant societies prevail. For example, both Europeans and Americans generally tend to see their Muslim societies as homogeneous entities whose identities are largely based on religion. The reality is that only about one third of them has religious affiliations, the majority representing secular or so-called cultural Muslims.
Furthermore, the approximately six million Muslims living in the United States come from eighty different countries, and the majority of them are not Arabs; 30% are South Asian, and 20 - 25% are African American. Europe’s 30 million Muslims come from forty different countries, and they are ethnically as diverse as is their social background, economic situation and religious beliefs.