From the better-late-than-never department...
During the height of the kerfuffle over the so-called ground-zero mosque many American Muslims raised the question of whether they would ever be fully accepted in American society. That question still seems to be hanging in the air, so I though I would take it upon myself to answer it.
Dear American Muslims:
The answer to your question is yes, sooner or later you will be accepted, but it may take a long time. You have to understand there are some features of American culture that are fundamentally at odds with certain aspects of your faith.
First and foremost, where religion is concerned we Americans are shameless hypocrites. Many of us loudly proclaim America to be a God-fearing country, but our real national religion is capitalism. If there is ever a conflict between religion and commerce, commerce wins. So, for example, we have never taken the second commandment very seriously. You may have noticed that depictions of Jesus are everywhere. So your strictures against depictions of the Prophet (PBUH) are fundamentally at odds with our culture. Before you can be accepted, one or the other is going to have to give. If you look at history, the assimilation process happens faster if the group being assimilated adapts to the culture rather than insisting that the culture adapt to it.
While I'm on the topic of commerce being the national religion, praying five times a day is widely viewed as being a little over the top. An exceptionally pious American (of any faith) goes their house of worship once a week. Anything more than that is viewed with suspicion because it's too significant an impact on productivity. This is true for any religion, not just Islam, but five times is day is so much more than any other mainstream religion demands of even its most ardent adherents that you really stick out. Not a good thing if you really want to fit in.
Another aspect of our culture that you need to understand is that concealing one's face is generally associated with lawlessness. In our culture, people conceal their faces not out of modesty but because they don't want their identity to be known. The visceral reaction to seeing someone, male or female, with their face covered in public is overwhelmingly negative. I am myself a product of four cultures (German, Israeli, Palestinian and American) so I am about as multicultural an American as you will ever meet, but seriously, seeing women wearing what looks to me like an instrument of torture over their faces creeps me out.
Last but not least there is the whole terrorism thing. The association of Islam with terrorism is tragic. It is bigoted. It is wrong. But it is, alas, not completely baseless. This is going to sound self-contradictory, but it would really help if the voices of moderation within Islam were louder. In American culture, intentional violence against innocents is flatly unacceptable under any circumstances. Yes, I know that America commits violence against innocents. As with religion, we are hypocrites, saying one thing and doing another. Yes, we have killed vastly more civilians by retaliating against 9/11 than were actually killed in 9/11 But killing those innocents was not our intent. To us, that makes all the difference in the world.
This is the crucial thing: American hypocrisy is at once a deep flaw in our character and also the glue that holds our society together. There are differences between us far greater than those that separate Shia and Sunni. But since 1865 we have not settled those differences with violence. The only way we can do that is to set aside some of our more ardent beliefs and behave as if we did not believe them. I have neighbors who are Baptists. According to their theology I am a heretic who is condemned to hell because I have not accepted Jesus as my lord and savior. But that doesn't stop us from going out to dinner and having a good time. We just don't talk about religion.
That sort of suspension of disbelief is much, much harder when your women are veiled and the call to prayer goes out over the PA five times a day every day.
By the way, it is important to notice that it is not just Muslims in America who are marginalized when their religious practices conflict with our cultural hypocrisy. Christians also suffer this fate. Fred Phelps is a pariah, not because he's a Muslim, but because he is too much of a Christian. Phelps's sin is that he takes the Bible too seriously. He is not willing to capitulate to the secular and the politically correct like, say, the Mormons have (mostly) done. But that is the price of acceptance. That is why the members of the Westboro Baptist Church are even more unwelcome than you are.
This is your dilemma: Islam as it is currently practiced seems (to my admittedly unschooled eye) to insist that you be Muslims first and Americans second. But America insists -- and has always insisted -- that Americans be Americans first and Muslims -- or Jews or Catholics or Baptists or Lutherans or Wicans or Methodists -- second. The price of being accepted in America is accepting others whose views are fundamentally incompatible with your most cherished beliefs and not getting in their face. The reason your assimilation is taking so long is that you are too principled, too pious, too unwilling to compromise Allah or the Q'uran or the Prophet (PBUH).
And if you find this letter at all offensive, well, that would be exactly my point.