Criminalizing Muslim Identity

The false association of terrorism and violence with Islam has grave consequences for the liberty interests of Muslims, and those perceived as such.  Surveillance, sting operations, targeted immigration enforcement, special registration, and immigration bans are among the myriad ways in which Muslim identity is effectively criminalized.

The criminalization of Muslim identity, unfortunately, is not the first time a minority group has been subjected to repression by the state on account of its racial and religious identity.

Racialized enforcement of criminal and national security laws has a sordid history in the United States.  African Americans and Native Americans suffered egregious civil and human rights violations as they were enslaved, forcibly evacuated from their land, lynched, segregated, and marginalized in our nation’s economy and political system.  Japanese Americans were interned, Chinese were excluded from entering the United States, and all Asians were denied the right to naturalize as U.S citizens.

Likewise, religious minorities have been persecuted based on false stereotypes that their beliefs were a threat to American values.  Catholics’ were presumed to be more loyal to the Pope than to the United States.  Jews were suspected of attempting to take over the country as part of a global conspiracy against Christians.  Buddhists were deemed godless heathens ineligible from attaining American citizenship.

The Criminalizing Muslim Identity project examines how Muslim identity is criminalized by law, policy, and societal norms with a focus on the structures adversely affecting religious and racial minorities.

When Islamophobia Turns Violent: The 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections
May 02, 2016

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At Freedom’s Limit: Islam and the Postcolonial Predicament
Sadia Abbas

The subject of this book is a new “Islam.” This Islam began to take shape in 1988 around the Rushdie affair, the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the first Gulf War of 1991. It was consolidated in the period following September 11, 2001. It is a name, a discursive site, a signifier at once flexible and constrained―indeed, it is a geopolitical agon, in and around which some of the most pressing aporias of modernity, enlightenment, liberalism, and reformation are worked out.

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