CHICAGO, Aug. 18 — The stretch of Devon Avenue in North Chicago also named for Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, seems as if it has been transplanted directly from that country. The shops are packed with traditional wedding finery, and the spice mix in the restaurants’ kebabs is just right.
Similar enclaves in Britain have been under scrutiny since they have proved to be a breeding ground for cells of terrorists, possibly including the 24 men arrested recently as suspects in a plot to blow up airliners flying out of London.
Yet Devon Avenue is in many ways different. Although heavily Pakistani, the street is far more exposed to other cultures than are similar communities in Britain.
Yet one major difference between the United States and Britain, some say, is the United States’ historical ideal of being a melting-pot meritocracy.
“You can keep the flavor of your ethnicity, but you are expected to become an American,” said Omer Mozaffar, 34, a Pakistani-American raised here who is working toward a doctorate in Islamic studies at the University of Chicago.
Britain remains far more rigid. In the United States, for example, Pakistani physicians are more likely to lead departments at hospitals or universities than they are in Britain, said Dr. Tariq H. Butt, a 52-year-old family physician who arrived in the United States 25 years ago for his residency.
Nationwide, Pakistanis appear to be prospering. The census calculated that mean household income in the United States in 2002 was $57,852 annually, while that for Asian households, which includes Pakistanis, was $70,047. By contrast, about one-fifth of young British-born Muslims are jobless, and many subsist on welfare.
I haven’t been on the west coast recently and so am not aware of ethnic dynamics there. Mississauga and the Toronto area though are much more like Great Britain in that there is a very embedded patronage system that limits mobility for ethnic minorities. Montreal is much more like the US and that may be because of Quebec having its own immigration system and the class structure there.
The fact that multiculturalism as a policy imposes serve limitations on ethnic mobility is something that Canadians seem to have a hard time understanding, or perhaps accepting is a better word. This may be because multiculturalism has been seen and used as a positive virtue that has contributed to Canada’s reputation as an enlightened and hip nation.