Hundreds of fighters traveled from, France, Holland, Belgium, Germany and the UK to join the ranks of jihadis fighting for Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). Comparatively, far fewer traveled from the United States. Why?
One explanation is that the U.S.’ model of citizenship is more inclusive than that of European countries. In contrast to ancient powers predicated on shared ethnic and religious histories, the United States offers a something very different: apart from formality of citizenship, anyone can become accepted as an “American” by accepting American values — freedom of speech, belief in the individual’s ability to change their own status and a commitment to personal liberty. Accept these values, America says, and you can be one of us. No matter who you were yesterday, today and tomorrow you can be whoever you want to be.
This foundational premise of America as the land of freedom and opportunity is conducive to integration of immigrants. America doesn’t ask new immigrants to give up their faith or their heritage, it simply asks for an additional commitment to something that can be understood universally.
By contrast, European nationalisms talk about history, ethnicity and faith. These concepts, while powerful and at times positive, can create very exclusionary narratives of nationhood that alienate rather than include new immigrants.
Despite America’s checkered past of racial justice and, recent attempts by European to be tolerant, the national narrative of what it means to be part of the nation is radically different in the United States compared to Europe.
Perhaps this difference can partially explain why America’s Muslims are the most integrated in the world and why, despite state-sponsored policies of multiculturalism, Europe continues to send jihadis to fight for ISIS.
Speaking about the failure of the multiculturalist model in the UK, analyst Sam Westrop writes, “British multiculturalism has encouraged British society to exist as a federation of communities in which each minority community was not required to adopt the values of the majority.”
This segregation of ethnic groups found in European societies also provided the opening for well-funded Islamist countries like Saudi Arabia, to create tremendous inroads into the Muslim communities – through funding mosques, community organizations and the like.