Legalizing Othering

Glossary of Key Terms

Glossary of Key Terms 

Act/Statute A bill that is enacted into law by a state legislature or the US Congress.

American Laws for American Courts (ALAC) model act An "anti-Sharia law" model legislation drafted by lawyer and anti-Muslim activist David Yerushalmi. The ALAC model prohibits foreign law, and more specifically Sharia law, from being considered or enforced in state courts as a basis for rulings. According to the ACLU, ALAC and other similar laws that seek to single out Muslims by way of barring the application of Sharia in US courts are in violation of the First Amendment, and undermine the power of courts to fairly consider cases. 

Anti-Sharia movement A movement that came into inception in 2010 inspired by anti-Muslim activists such as David Yerushalmi, Brigitte Gabriel, Frank Gaffney, among others, to embed a fear of "Sharia law" within American society, and to influence lawmakers to introduce anti-Sharia bills that target Muslims in state legislatures. The movement, through anti-Sharia and anti-Syrian refugee advocacy work, is stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment across the US, and by way of enacting ALAC or anti-Sharia bills, legalizes the othering of Muslims. Such laws strip Muslims of their legal rights as afforded by the First Amendment, and further proliferate a culture of fear and intolerance towards Muslim Americans and Muslim communities.

The Birther Movement A conspiracy theory movement that emerged in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election that fallaciously sought to undermine then-Senator Barack Obama’s bid for presidency. The birther movement labeled Barack Obama as “foreign” in an effort to disqualify him from serving as president, bringing into question the legitimacy of his birth certificate, his place of birth, and US citizenship. Even when Obama’s campaign shared his birth certificate on the “Fight the Smears” website to address any speculation surrounding his birth, the birther movement continued to spread unfounded claims about his birth certificate. Donald Trump was a staunch supporter of the birther movement and is credited with reviving the baseless theory that Obama is not a US-born citizen prior to the 2012 and 2016 presidential election campaigns. Only on September 16, 2016, did then-presidential candidate Donald Trump concede that Obama was indeed born in the United States.

Constitutional Amendment A modification or change to a state or nation’s constitution. For each of the 50 states that comprise the United States, each has its own rules and procedures that determine how the constitution of that state can be amended. 

Enacted/Not Enacted A bill that is enacted into law means that the bill becomes law, or is now an Act, statute, or legislation. If a bill is not enacted, the bill is not signed into law. 

Extremist/Extremism Individuals who hold political, social, and/or ideological views at the far ends of the political and social spectrums and who utilize violence as a means to achieve their goals, in the process harming or singling out other social groups in society. In the context of Islamophobia, there exists a belief that extremists and extremism are implicitly attached to Muslims especially disproportionate to other religious or racial/ethnic groups.

Foreign Law Laws of another jurisdiction, not strictly laws of another country, as a state court could refer to the judgment of another US state’s court as a foreign judgment.

First Amendment An amendment to the US Constitution that details the limits placed on governmental power, establishing that it is illegal for Congress to enact a law establishing an official religion of the country, or to prohibit the free exercise of religion, protecting the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition the US government. 

Islamophobia Islamophobia is the belief that Islam is a monolithic religion whose followers, called Muslims, do not share common values with other major faiths; is inferior to Judaism and Christianity; is archaic, barbaric, and irrational; is a religion of violence that supports terrorism; and is a violent political ideology. Islamophobia forms the basis of an ideology that views Muslims as a threat to “Western” civilization. Further, Islamophobia is contingent upon the construction and reification of a homogenized Muslim “other” who should be viewed suspiciously, scrutinized, dehumanized, and excluded from Western or Judeo-Christian societies. Islamophobia has been expressed in prejudicial views, discriminatory language, and acts of verbal and physical violence inflicted upon Muslims, and those perceived to be Muslim. Islamophobia has manifested in a policing regime that engages in the profiling, surveillance, torture, and detention of people along racial/ethnic and religious lines, and has justified the militarization of foreign policy as well as an unprecedented expansion of security apparatuses. 

Islamophobe An individual who holds a closed-minded view of Islam and promotes prejudice against, or hatred of, Muslims. This definition derives from the CAIR report Legalizing Fear (2013).

Legislation A bill under consideration by a legislative body, or a bill that the legislature has enacted into law.

Othering/Belonging The Haas Institute defines Othering as a set of dynamics, processes, and structures that engender marginality and persistent inequality across any of the full range of human differences based on group identities. Othering provides a clarifying frame that reveals a set of common processes and conditions that propagate group-based inequality and marginality. Belonging means having a meaningful voice and being afforded the opportunity to participate in the design of political, social, and cultural structures. More than just having access, belonging is the right to contribute and make demands upon society and institutions. Belonging entails an unwavering commitment to not simply tolerating and respecting difference, but ensuring that all people are fully seen and included in society.

Senate Bill (SB)/House Bill (HB) A proposed piece of legislation or bill originating from the Senate, and a proposed piece of legislation or bill originating from the House of Representatives.

Sharia/Sharia law According to a large majority of Islamic law experts, Sharia is a moral code or guiding principles founded on the teachings of the Quran and the Hadith (the teachings and actions of the prophet Mohammed). The interpretation of Sharia is called “fiqh,” meaning Islamic jurisprudence, however, Sharia is not the equivalent of Islamic law or an Islamic legal system, but rather is an evolving methodology for devout Muslims to discern God’s guidance, to lead an ethical and moral life. Sharia is a part of a Muslim individual’s everyday life as it directs how Muslims engage with the world, ranging from what Muslims eat, how business and personal affairs are conducted, how they treat animals, protect the environment, and more. 

The Tea Party movement The panic that emerged as a result of the financial and housing crisis, combined with fear of economic dispossession, immigration, and the election of a Black president, served as the catalyst that brought forth the Tea Party movement in 2009. The movement operates as a decentralized network of local and state-based groups that pushes for a conservative agenda, and the Tea Party first rose to prominence as a political force as a result of the groups’ resistance to the Affordable Care Act and Obama’s economic policies. The movement has been successful in garnering support from white Americans and those who feel threatened by the changing demographics in the US, and the rise of minorities into positions of cultural and political power, challenging the privileges and power that have long been furnished through white identity. Members of the movement’s constituency identify themselves as “real Americans” who have worked hard throughout their lives for what they’ve earned, view immigrants and many communities of color as freeloading off of their hard labor and efforts, and the Democratic Party as representing “cultural elitism.

Terrorist/Terrorism While there is not a universally agreed upon definition of terrorism, in contemporary usage it means the use of organized and deliberate vio - lence, or the threat of violence, to seize power to achieve political change. Many in Western soci - eties have encapsulated the terms to be synony - mous with Muslims and Islam; however, the use of violence as an instrument to obtain power and political gain is not inherent to one social group, religion, people, or state.

US Contemporary Islamophobia Movement Since 9/11, two major shifts have occurred re - garding Islamophobia in the US: (1) Islamophobia became the operationalizing tool to single out Muslims and Islam based on the actions of indi - vidual deviants, shifting the blame of a few to be absorbed by all Muslims collectively; and (2) A shift in lone-wolf or individual acts of anti-Muslim sentiment and actions to organized Islamophobia and anti-Muslim efforts, giving rise to groups that organize people around anti-Muslim campaigns and efforts like ACT for America and Stop Islam - ization of America. Islamophobes are organized (within national and global networks) to institu - tionalize public policies and legal regimes that are explicitly anti-Muslim/Islam and led by orga - nizations, think tanks, institutes, paid anti-Muslim activists, grassroots organizing campaigns, etc. The contemporary Islamophobia movement came into existence as a product of both major domes - tic and global events, activities, and movements ranging from the events of 9/11, US foreign wars and military interventions in the Middle East, the global financial crisis, the election of former Presi - dent Barack Obama, the rise of the Tea Party and birther movements, Peter King’s congressional hearings on the radicalization of Muslim Ameri - cans, among other events.