“I like to be Muslim American” the experiences and factors that affect acculturation and identity formation of Muslim Americans
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This study examines how Muslims in a generally oppositional setting generate identities as Muslim Americans while simultaneously integrating into American society and managing the stigma of being seen as a culturally oppositional group through addressing the following research questions: 1) Among self-identified Muslims in a medium-sized conservative city, what are the main factors that correlate with perceived discriminatory experiences? 2) Do those factors correlate with the individual’s self-perceived identification as an American and/or integration with American society? 3) What is the connection between perception of the type of discrimination and the response to that discrimination? Can these stigma management strategies be classified, and do those classifications give us any information on the identification and/or integration effects of those strategies on individuals? This study found that personal association with religion was the main reason in stigmatizing and stereotyping this group of people. Thus, the stigmatization and consequent prejudices and discriminations toward these people occur when their relations to Islam are discovered. This study also finds that one’s self-perceived integration into American society and identity formation as a Muslim American interplay with each other in an inclusive process. Although the influential factors on perceived integration and identity formation are partially related to the previous experience of discriminations, some other elements also appeared to affect this relationship such as generation of citizenship, social status, age, and religiosity. Additionally, we find that stigma management strategies are affected by factors in perceived discrimination, the perception of discriminators as ignorant versus evil affect what type of strategy will be employed. This study determines that four stigma management strategies were employed to eliminate prejudices and possible threats toward their oppositional religious culture: avoidance, reactive educational, proactive educational and proactive organizational.