Herald Journal Columns
July 17, 2006, Herald Journal

The importance of identity


A recent article featured in “The Economist” about Muslims finding it “easier to be American than to feel European,” came to me as a bit of shock, especially after 9/11.

But in terms of free speech and rights to religious differences, according to an Irananian-American writer on Islam, “Americans are used to exuberant displays of religiosity.” Therefore, the article continued, “daily prostrations of a devout Muslim are less shocking to an American than to a lukewarm European Christian.”

I was pleased to hear of America’s acceptance of religious differences and Muslims as a whole, especially after 9/11. Because of that, I would’ve thought Muslims would have a more difficult time in America as opposed to Europe. The article did point out that the 9/11 attacks were planned in Hamburg, Germany, possibly due to more extremist natures among European Muslims.

According to the article, proof of the European’s failure “either to give newcomers a decent economic life or to confront extremism successfully,” is when violence “erupted” among Muslims in many of the French “slum-suburbs.”

The most recent failure on Europe’s part was the Danish cartoon about the prophet Muhammad, which caused world wide riots earlier this year.

The article highlights a photo of a beautiful mosque that appears middle-eastern, but is actually in Dearborn, Mich.

Despite the hardships of the integration into European life, Muslims have not lost sight of their religion and, in fact, religion is the main “symbol” of their identities.

The article also stated a third of the French school-age Muslims see their faith as the “main thing that defines them.”

Could the same thing be said about school-age American Christians? I guess that would depend on geography. For example, in the south, especially Mississippi, they are overtly religious, whereas in the eastern US, people are more conservative when it comes to religion.

Religion can be a hard thing to admit, much less allow yourself to be defined by it.

Identity is a hard thing to find. It’s probably something most people don’t even think about.

Many can be defined by their job. But that is partly irrelevant since there is more to a person than what they do for a living.

It took me 25 years to finally identify my identity, and I’m sure it will change throughout the years to come. As for now, my identity lies in my religion and job.

If asked to define ones identity, most would do so according to job title. For me, that would be “journalist.” I don’t much like the term “reporter.” It sounds so nosy, which I am not (most of the time). I’m a writer searching for practical ideas to write about.

The important thing about a person’s identity is to not lose sight of it or deny it for the sake of others.

I admire the dedication of the school-aged Muslims, even in countries far less accepting of free speech and free religion.

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