Today’s assimilation challenge

Photo: a katz /
Is it possible for Muslims to fully acculturate into Western cultures? Photo is from a February 2017 rally in New York City called “Today I am a Muslim too.”

Rev. Dr. Duane Lindberg
Waterloo, Iowa

“They were Americans before they left!” This observation by immigration historian Marcus Lee Hansen suggests that 19th and 20th century immigrants shared values and beliefs that helped them assimilate into American society. Thus, the goal of U.S. immigration policy prior to the rise of identity politics and political correctness was to encourage acculturation. This is distinct from assimilation, which would involve the surrender of the immigrants’ traditions, heritage, and identity into the American melting pot. Acculturation, on the other hand, means that immigrants will retain elements of their culture of origin. But, for acculturation to work, immigrants must make adjustments necessary to thrive in their new situation. This adjustment must include understanding our institutions, embracing our U.S. Constitution, and complying with our laws.

If immigrants are unwilling to take steps towards acculturating into American society, one must question whether they should be allowed to enter the U.S. For example, is it wise for the welfare of our nation to admit devotees of totalitarian political or religious groups like Nazis, Marxists, or Islamic fundamentalists? These totalitarian ideologies reject not only our democratic institutions and treasured freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion, but also the basic right to life itself as guaranteed in America’s Declaration of Independence. Herein the Founding Fathers declared a self-evident truth, “… That all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” As an ideology, Islamic fundamentalism denies these rights to “infidels,” and considers all non-Muslims including Christians and Jews “infidels.” Furthermore, Islamic fundamentalism is not only a religious movement but also a totalitarian political ideology whose goal is to impose its law code, Sharia law, on America and the entire world. Therefore, Islamic fundamentalism must be dealt with not only as a religious movement but also as a political philosophy that is antithetical to American democracy and freedom.

This incompatibility with democracy is evident when one studies the official statements and documents of Islamic fundamentalism. This is reflected in a motto from the transnational Islamist organization Muslim Brotherhood: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Quran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope. Allahu akbar!” This motto inspires the call for jihad against America. E.g. in a September 2010 sermon, the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, Muhammed Badi, called for jihad against “the Muslim’s real enemies, not only Israel but also the United States. Waging jihad against both of these infidels is a commandment of Allah that cannot be disregarded.”

Of course, some object, claiming, “Muslims do not believe this anymore!” However, according to a 2011 Pew Research Survey1, 7 percent of American Muslims believe that suicide bombing can sometimes be justified in defense of Islam2. Also, according to The Polling Company’s survey in 2015, 33 percent of Muslim Americans say Al Qaeda’s beliefs with regard to Islam are correct, and 8 percent of Muslim Americans say the beliefs of ISIS are correct3. This poll also reveals that 33 percent of Muslim Americans say that Sharia law should be supreme to the U.S. Constitution. In a survey by the Vancouver Sun in 2015, 42 percent of Canadian Muslims say that Islamic and Western societies are “irreconcilable.”

If these survey results referred to only a tiny minority, it would still be serious. However, according to former President Obama, the number of Muslims in the United States is seven million. If only 8 percent of these believe suicide bombings are justified, that means 560,000 people in the U.S. are supportive of this terror. The contrast between Islamic fundamentalist immigrants and the older immigration from European Christian countries is very evident. Because our democratic values are rooted in Judeo-Christian religious teachings, the values and beliefs of these earlier immigrants made them “Americans before they left” their homelands. However, with regard to the immigration of Islamic fundamentalists, we would be naïve to make the same assumption.

Thankfully, most American Muslims do not subscribe to Islamic fundamentalist views and are willing to make the adjustments necessary to live at peace with their neighbors and thrive in our American setting. Therefore, we must encourage these moderate Muslims to speak out against forms of Islam espoused by ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The unrestricted entrance of Islamic fundamentalists into the U.S. endangers democracy and the freedoms that are fundamental to our American institutions and way of life.

1. The 2011 Muslim American Survey is based on telephone interviews conducted April 14-July 22, 2011, with 1,033 Muslims in the U.S. See References.

2. According to the same survey, 81% of Muslims say such tactics are never justified.

3. A comparably small percentage of Muslim Americans express favorable views of Al Qaeda: 2% very favorable and 3% somewhat favorable. And the more recent poll finds more Muslim Americans holding very unfavorable views of al Qaeda than in 2007 (70% vs. 58%). Pew Research Center:

References, compiled by Opinions Editor Linn Chloe Hagstrøm:
• Pew Research Center:

• The Polling Company survey:

• “Most Canadians believe Western and Islamic societies ‘irreconcilable:’ Poll,” Vancouver Sun:

• Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “‘The Quran Is Our Law; Jihad Is Our Way,’” Wall Street Journal: (WSJ subscription required)

Rev. Dr. Duane Lindberg’s background in­cludes both an MA and PhD in American Studies in addition to degrees in Lutheran theology and graduate studies in Chemistry. He has authored books and articles relating to the issue of immigration to the U.S., with special focus on Norwegian immigration.

This article originally appeared in the June 30, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.