Earlier I wrote about a new book written by a Muslim American family that tries to guide young Muslim Americans through the American racial landscape and the assimilation process. To follow up on that post and as the Christian Science Monitor reports, young Muslim Americans are already changing one aspect of their cultural tradition — dating:

The careful rules that dictate male-female interaction and courtship quite simply can’t be applied in the US as they are in predominately Muslim countries. . . . The result: US Muslims are pioneering ways to read Muslim rules in ways that make sense in an American context. . . .

Though it may seem old-fashioned in a US context, finding a partner without your family’s help bucks most Muslim traditions. . . . the concept of dating for fun simply does not exist in Islam. Any potential match is judged, pursued, or abandoned based on marriage potential.

In the US, however, many Muslims – especially Arabs – have re-interpreted parts of the courtship process to allow for something closer to the American way.

The article goes on to describe various ways that old traditions and contemporary circumstances clash when it comes to finding a spouse among Muslim Americans. Even though such cultural changes inevitably cause some degree of unease on both sides, these examples illustrate how Asian Americans — that includes Muslim Americans — are slowly forging their own identity that combines elements from both cultures.

As I’ve written about before, these new forms of assimilation are great examples of how increasing American and international diversity, globalization, and transnationalism are changing the landscape of how racial/ethnic minorities identify themselves in 21st century American society.

That is, we used to be limited to the rigid dichotomy of “American” versus “non-American.” But with the world changing all around us, I would argue that we now have more opportunities and more power to assert an identity that, if we want, combines both the the traditional and the contemporary.

This new identity can also include the idea that our “foreignness” may actually be an asset, rather than a liability, since it directly reflects the demographic, political, and economic changes taking place all around us. As we assert these new forms of being an American, we will undoubtedly encounter resistance from more “traditional” Americans.

Nonetheless, these institutional changes taking place all around us are real and they are only accelerating. In that context, as Asian Americans, I think we should take the initiative to lead American society forward into the 21st century.