American Foreign Policy in the Middle
East and Its Impact on the Identity of
Arab Muslims in the United States
Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad
Muslim identity in the United States has been influenced by the American environment in general and by individual and corporate experiences of immigrants in various American localities during the last hundred years; it is also conditioned by the distinctive self-perceptions that immigrants bring with them to the United States.1 This identity is clarified and molded daily by the treatment Muslims receive in their places of residence and employment,2 in the schools,3 and by the courts.4 It is altered and negotiated repeatedly as a result of the discrimination they experience as they deal with the images projected about them by the host society in literature,5 the movies,6 and the media.7 And, in a very dramatic way, it has been shaped during the last four decades by the vagaries of American foreign policy in the Middle East and America's relations with Muslim countries throughout the world.8
The Muslim community in the United States comprises a variety of peoples from more than sixty nations who represent different linguistic, national, and racial backgrounds. They have emigrated in several waves, reflecting changes in American immigration policies as well as sociopolitical and economic upheavals overseas. Like other immigrants, Muslims represent myriad interests and goals. Their immigration was initiated in an effort to enjoy the various benefits the United States provides: economic and social enhancement, political refuge, and religious freedom. Over the years they have shaped and reshaped their social and religious organizations to reflect the changing interests and growing concerns of the members of their community. A variety of factors impinge on the formation of their identity,9 of which this study considers one particularly important aspect—the influence of American foreign policy in the Middle East. Although it is clear that this factor is increasingly significant in forging an American Muslim consciousness among the various ethnic and national groups that constitute the Muslim community in the United States, this study focuses on those persons who seem to be most immediately affected, the immigrants from Arab countries.