One of the problems with Muslims in America, according to Donald Trump, is that they simply don’t fit in.
Asked about the assimilation of Muslim immigrants in American culture on Fox News’s Hannity Tuesday night, Trump said it is "pretty close" to "nonexistent," even with second- and third-generation American citizens. Here is the exchange:
Hannity: If you grow up under Sharia law, and as a man, you think you have the right to tell a woman how to dress, whether she can drive a car, whether she can go to school, or whether she can go to work … if you grow up there, you want to come to America, how do we vet somebody’s heart and ascertain if they're coming here for freedom or if they want to proselytize, indoctrinate, and bring the theocracy with them?
Trump: Assimilation has been very hard. It’s almost, I won’t say nonexistent, but it gets to be pretty close. And I’m talking about second and third generation — for some reason there’s no real assimilation.
Trump: And you see it all over the place. … I’m not even talking about assimilation. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about there is a percentage of people that want to do what this maniac did in Orlando. There’s a percentage of people. That percentage becomes — the number of people becomes more and more as we take in thousands and thousands of more people. There’s a hate that’s going on that’s unbelievable.
The interview, aside from Hannity’s mischaracterization of Islam, is part of Trump’s larger narrative painting of Muslims as the internal enemies in the United States; it’s a point he has been driving home since a gunman, who pledged support to ISIS, killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando.
This campaign season Trump has proposed adding extra surveillance at mosques, potentially adding Muslims to some kind of national database, and temporarily banning all Muslims from entering the United States.
Muslims in America
A Pew study estimates that Muslims made up roughly 1 percent of the American population in 2015. Comparatively, Muslims made up roughly 6 percent of the European population in 2010, a percentage projected to increase to 8 percent by 2030.
But Trump’s assertion that Muslims don't assimilate is wrong: American Muslims are in fact more culturally integrated than European Muslims and say they identify more strongly with their American identity than their religious identity, according to a study from the Council on Foreign Relations:
The percentage of U.S. Muslims in individual income and education brackets tracks closely to that of the rest of the U.S. population, surveys suggest. According to a 2009 Gallup poll, U.S. Muslims have the second-highest level of education among major religious groups in the United States. Almost 50 percent of Muslims identify with religion before their U.S. identity (nearly half of U.S. Christians polled by Gallup also identified with their religion first).
Even so, Americans are increasingly less tolerant of Muslims; a survey from the Public Religion Research Institute in September 2015 found that 56 percent of Americans think Islam is "at odds with American values and way of life," up from 47 percent in 2011.
It’s a sentiment that President Obama has faced head on, as Max Fisher documented for Vox last year:
A February poll showed that 54 percent of Republican respondents believe that Obama "deep down" is best described as Muslim. By September, an Iowa poll found that only 49 percent of Republicans there believed that Islam should be legal, with 30 percent saying it should be illegal and 21 percent "unsure." Among Trump supporters in Iowa, hostility toward Muslims was higher but not that much higher: 36 percent said Islam should be outlawed … Fifty-seven percent of Americans, and 83 percent of Republicans, say that Muslims should be barred from the presidency.
It’s a trend that Trump has long tapped into, once having been a big skeptic of Obama’s religious affiliations and ethnic origins, campaigning on a platform with the official position of, "Keep Muslims out; they don’t belong here."