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Could opposition to Ground Zero mosque bolster the thing opponents fear?

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The US, by contrast, has always been an immigrant nation, and one in which newcomers have been able to find their feet and their own "American-ness" far more quickly than immigrants in other parts of the world. While in parts of the Netherlands, Britain, and France, there are largely homogeneous Muslim communities from Pakistan or Algeria that seem to live apart from broader society, the source populations of US Muslims have been more ethnically and linguistically diverse, and they've been more geographically integrated into the nation at large.

Ihsan Bagby, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Kentucky, says that the United States has been fortunate in that its earlier Muslim immigrants were better educated and more prosperous than their counterparts in Europe, and that the presence of the African-American Muslim community already provided a template for an "American" Islam when they arrived, however small. But he also says integration was built into the fabric of America itself.

"It is the philosophy that religion is accepted, and people no matter what their background and religion are to be excepted as full citizens... a positive understanding that America is open," says Dr. Bagby. "Muslims regularly fall back on that to not only justify their activities in the public square and to bolster them when they’re under attack, similar to African-Americans who used that wedge for 300 years to say 'hey, America is supposed to be founded on freedom and equality for all citizens.' To me, that's the greatness of America, that the underlying principles are tools for those who want to carve out their freedom and find their place. European Muslims can’t lean on that narrative of why they belong there."

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