Othering, Discrimination, and Hate Crimes

Following the 9/11 attacks, researchers have increasingly examined the effects of anti-Muslim sentiment, rhetoric, and attitudes on the everyday experiences of belonging, citizenship, and safety among American Muslims. This wide body of literature on the American Muslim experience has captured a range of ethnographic, case study, and empirical data on the effects of anti-Muslim discrimination. Sites of Islamophobia include educational institutions, law enforcement, the workplace, and the US legal system. Recent perspectives also shed light on the resilience and coping strategies of Muslim communities in the face of anti-Muslim discrimination, which is an area in need of further research and engagement. The following academic readings highlight the way in which Islamophobia manifests in everyday experiences of discrimination and violence towards Muslim communities in America.

Annotations

Frequently cited

Cainkar, Louis A. Homeland insecurity: the Arab American and Muslim American experience after 9/11. New York City, NY: Russell Sage Foundation (2009).

In this book, Louise Cainkar, sociologist at Marquette University, provides significant insight into both the immediate and long-term impacts of 9/11 on Arab communities living in the US. With an aim to represent authentic and everyday experiences of Arab Muslims in Chicago, Cainkar sheds light on their experiences of “de-Americanization” within a broader historical context of Islamophobia. Namely, the book traces how Arabs and Muslims have been racialized and othered in the decades leading up to the 9/11 attacks. The main analysis of this book is based on ethnographic observation, in-depth interviewing, and oral histories of respondents in the Chicago area between 2002-2005. The accounts reported in this book raise awareness of how stereotypical discourses and social processes of Arab and Muslim exclusion in the US were internalized by respondents in the wake of the attacks. Namely, the respondents in Cainkar’s study specified that they felt fearful and unsafe in everyday spaces. They also noted experiences of discrimination. These narratives bring to light the negative effects of internment, surveillance, ethnic profiling events, and legislation on the everyday lives of American citizens of Arab ancestry. Arab Americans are most vulnerable to these negative effects, particularly those who visually fit the stereotype and image of the “terrorist.” Muslim women in hijab are most vulnerable to discrimination and attacks in everyday spaces. Interestingly, Cainkar also discusses how in the wake of these challenges, the community mobilized productively following 9/11 through social and political activism, including alliance-building with non-Arab and non-Muslim groups. Examples of this included “opening doors” to mosques and institutions via Mosque Open Days or inter-faith and open community events. This book provides a critical and localized engagement with how 9/11 continued the social and political marginalization of Muslim Arab Americans that was previously established by government and media institutions to justify profiling. Despite that this book exclusively focuses on the experiences of Arab Muslims in the Chicago area, the specific examples of persecution and prejudice captured in Cainkar’s analysis provide significant insight into the impact of the 9/11 attacks on Arab Muslim experiences of t national identity in the United States.

Critical Insight

Helbling, Marc, ed. Islamophobia in the West: Measuring and explaining individual attitudes. Routledge (2013).

This edited collection of book chapters by Marc Helbling draws on a wide range of survey data across various Western contexts to theorize Islamophobia. This volume aims to engage more critically the issue of Islamophobia by moving beyond the national setting, and drawing in research on Islamophobia from multiple countries. Helbling takes this global approach in order to identify patterns in how Islamophobia is characterized in the West. The book is organized in four sections, with the opening part examining how Islamophobia might be measured via various surveys. The second section covers the scope of Islamophobia by reflecting on public debates, attitudes, and reactions in four Western contexts: the UK, Norway, Sweden, and Spain. The following section attempts to grapple with the origins and effects of Islamophobia, including the impact of the 9/11 attacks on public opinion and parliamentary debates in the 2009 Swiss referendum to ban minarets. The final section of the book questions whether the treatment of Muslims has been different to other outgroups in the West. This includes specific cases across Holland, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, and Sweden from a range of perspectives including political science and sociology. Across all case studies, it was found that negative public attitudes and perceptions towards Muslims and Arabs existed across all national contexts long before the 9/11 attacks. However, the multidisciplinary perspectives in these sections trace the effects of media and politics on intensifying rates of hate crimes and discriminatory actions towards Muslims in the West. The collection of essays in this book provide two main contributions to the study of Islamophobia. First, Helbling highlights the value of survey-based research for unpacking the complexities of an issue like Islamophobia. Second, it demonstrates the need for interdisciplinary engagement in various national contexts in order to truly expose the scope and extent of Islamophobia as a global issue.

Recent Perspectives

Husain, Altaf, and Stephenie Howard. "Religious Microaggressions: A Case Study of Muslim Americans." Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work 26, no. 1/2 (2017): 139.

Altaf Husain and Stephenie Howard, both from Howard University’s School of Social Work, critically examine the impact of religious microaggressions against Muslims in America on social work policy, practice, and education. The article is divided into four major sections, beginning with a discussion on the impact of religious microaggression followed by an in-depth examination of the religious microaggressions specifically faced by Muslims in America. The main themes of these religious microaggressions identified in this article include: the assumption of religious homogeneity, constructing Muslims as alien in their own country, the pathology of the Muslim religion, and endorsing religious stereotypes of Muslims as terrorists. The third section contextualizes these religious microaggressions within the framework of the history and roots of anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States in four main periods: (i) the late 1800s to World War II; (ii) World War II to the Iranian Revolution; (iii) the Iranian Revolution to September 10, 2001; and (iv) post-September 11, 2001 to 2015. The article stresses the need for social work practitioners to not only confront their own biases toward Muslims, but also be prepared to assist those facing anti-Muslim racism. This includes Muslims and other people of color who are not Muslims that still face Islamophobic microaggression, such as South Asians and Arabs. Further, the authors stress the pivotal role of social worker educators in ameliorating the harmful impact of microaggressions in the lives of Muslim students and scholars. The authors suggest providing safe spaces in the classroom for students to discuss views about Muslims, as well as discussions among social workers on how to best address microaggressions faced by Muslim clients. This article provides useful insight into how Muslims in America now face religious microaggressions due to the racialization of religion, while providing social work practitioners and educators with the tools to assist victims of Islamophobia in the form of religious microaggressions.

Reading list