This dissertation examines Muslims as the latest in a long line of minority religious communities that have legally challenged existing U.S. social practices and thereby, broadened American citizenship understandings. This interdisciplinary study constitutes a creative investigation of interactions between religious minority challenges, cultural negotiations, legislative reactions, U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and communal interpretations which have allowed the diverse Abrahamic faiths access to U.S. citizenship. In the process, it explores the unfolding elements and central aims of U.S. citizenship emphasizing the implications for Islam in the United States. From theoretical analysis of the historic record, a new model of citizenship is developed and a public policy of welcome is advocated.
Current Muslim American legal challenges to national security policy are placed within the context of key U.S. Supreme Court cases addressing Protestant Evangelical, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Jewish adaptations to the United States. Attention is paid to the Supreme Court's role in our pluralistic, secular society as both mediator of legal conflicts and arbiter of social values. Then, the normative weight of public reaction is examined. These events reveal the complex interactions and intersecting meanings of the distinct citizenship ideals currently advocated by John Rawls, Michael Walzer, Alasdair MacIntyre, Iris Marion Young, William Kymlicka, and Seyla Benhabib. It is the contention of the author that American ideals of citizenship can integrate and balance all of these meanings. Through theoretical review of historic legal events, a unique model of unfolding American citizenship is developed. It relates the elements of rights, duty, membership, and participation to U.S. policies both of conforming assimilation and empowering integration. In conclusion, the author advocates a public policy of welcoming Muslim Americans which embraces their diversity and undergirds local interfaith efforts. Such policy is proposed to motivate Muslim American allegiance, encourage civic friendship, and further the common good.
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