Let me turn to the question of assimilation, which is much discussed nowadays. How far is it possible for Muslim migrants who have settled in Europe, in North America, and elsewhere, to become part of those countries in which they settle, in the way that so many other waves of immigrants have done? I think there are several points which need to be made.
One of them is the basic differences in what precisely is meant by assimilation and acceptance. Here there is an immediate and obvious difference between the European and the American situations. For an immigrant to become an American means a change of political allegiance. For an immigrant to become a Frenchman or a German means a change of ethnic identity. Changing political allegiance is certainly very much easier and more practical than changing ethnic identity, either in one’s own feelings or in one’s measure of acceptance. England had it both ways. If you were naturalized, you became British but you did not become English.
I mentioned earlier the important difference in what one means by religion. For Muslims, it covers a whole range of different things–marriage, divorce, and inheritance are the most obvious examples. Since antiquity in the Western world, the Christian world, these have been secular matters. The distinction of church and state, spiritual and temporal, lay and ecclesiastical is a Christian distinction which has no place in Islamic history and therefore is difficult to explain to Muslims, even in the present day. Until very recently they did not even have a vocabulary to express it. They have one now.
The entire lecture can be found here. It is well worth the read. *L* KGS