Can people of different faiths coexist?

Despite suddenly becoming a category, American Muslims remain an integral part of American life.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: Can people of different faiths coexist?

Barrett: Well they do. Muslims are co-existing all around this country. They have the advantage of this country to continue to contrast with Europe, say, of being here in proportion . . . in smaller proportional terms. So they actually are much more diluted into a much larger majority society. There’s no good estimate of the number of Muslims in this country – no reliable number. That’s largely because the United States census does not count by religion. So all you have are private surveys. You have numbers of six or seven million perhaps at the high end; as low as two or three million at the low end. Having no real basis for choosing among those, I use a rough estimate of somewhere three to six million. I don’t really know. But whatever it is, it’s maybe one to two percent of the population; in contrast to places in Europe where it’s five percent or as high as 10 percent, for example, in France. And in those relatively small numbers, and with impressive educational and professional credentials, Muslims in many places are just living their lives. And in fact until 9/11 most people thought of them as Pakistanis or Indians, or some guy from Egypt, or a guy from Turkey. And it’s really only since 9/11 in any really pronounced way that Americans have focused on other Muslims among us in some numbers. So there’s been tensions since then. People have been arrested. There have been prosecutions. Charities have been shut down. There’s been a lot of anxiety. But again look at the terrible thing that happened, and what shock and horror it caused. And look at the overall effect. I mean people were . . . Some people were rounded up, but most of them were released – a terrible experience for many of them; terribly mishandled by the government at several critical stages. But you know today there’s no sort of systematic effort to persecute Muslims as Muslims. We actually have in a lot of ways rebounded from that. Not to say that if there were another terrible terrorist attack that we would be in worse shape than we were on September 12th. But the country actually is doing overall fairly well in absorbing Muslims in the same way that Muslims . . . that previous groups – Catholics, Jews and so forth – started out as extreme outsiders; the targets of extreme prejudice and persecution. Believe me, Jews and Catholics in their day were the targets of much more sustained, much more officially tolerated persecution than Muslims ever have been.

Recorded on: 12/4/07