This body of literature is centered on exposing the dialectic relationship between Islamophobia and the US legal system. In highlighting the way Islamophobia both influences, and is influenced by, the law, the listed academic pieces highlight the deficiencies of anti-discrimination legislation in protecting the rights of Muslim communities in the US. Topics covered by the research to date focus on (i) the legalized othering of Muslims, (ii) anti-discrimination laws, and (iii) anti-terrorism policies. In the first instance, key works shed light on the recent rise in both proposed and enacted anti-Sharia and anti-refugee legislation across various US states that legalize the othering of Muslim communities, as well as the restriction of their legal rights and ability to immigrate to the US from Muslim countries. Secondly, recent contributions critique the inadequacies of existing anti-discrimination laws in protecting American Muslims from various forms of discrimination based on their religious identity. Finally, the discriminatory impacts of anti-terror policies and models such as de-radicalization, countering-terrorism efforts, and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) are critiqued and unpacked.


Frequently cited

Beydoun, Khaled A. "America, Islam, and Constitutionalism: Muslim American Poverty and the Mounting Police State." Journal of Law & Religion 31, no. 3 (2016): 279-92.

In this “State of the Field” essay, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law Khaled Beydoun seeks to identify and introduce the experiences of poor and indigent Muslim Americans in the War on Terror. In doing so, Beydoun aims to bring to the forefront, narratives of how the War on Terror’s discriminatory policies have negatively impacted Muslim communities that occupy a range of intersections. These intersections include poor, Muslim, and immigrant populations; Black Muslims in impoverished urban spaces where structural police violence is pervasive and poor, but outwardly devout Muslims in spaces where Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) policing is practiced. According to Beydoun, these are the experiences that have been pushed to the furthest margins of the grand narrative of American Islam, and thus absent from debates in the existing literature. Beydoun tackles this by examining three new books on American Islam and the so-called “Muslim Question” emerging in societies around the globe, demonstrating what these texts say—and do not say—about race and poverty in the study of American Islam. In doing so, this essay provides two key arguments: First, that poor and working-class Muslim-American communities are targeted most intensely by both Islamophobes and the intensifying suspicion of the state, and second, that race and poverty influence exposure to state surveillance. The latter, he argues, results in a more detrimental impact of state policing on poor and working-class Black Muslim communities. This piece thus challenges the perception of Muslim America as an economic model minority, shedding light on how Muslims who face poverty are also disproportionately targeted by counter-radicalization policing. In bringing attention to the way that anti-terror policing intersects with previously established forms of racialized state policing, Beydoun highlights that it is imperative to integrate narratives of race and poverty into scholarship on Islamophobia, particularly perspectives that deal with the legal discrimination against Muslims in the US.

Critical Insight

Yaser, Ali. "Shariah and Citizenship—How Islamophobia Is Creating a Second-Class Citizenry in America." California Law Review, no. 4 (2012): 1027.

In this article, Yaser Ali addresses anti-Muslim and anti-Sharia rhetoric by highlighting the way Islamophobia affects the law and Muslim citizenship in the US. Situating the perceived threat of “Sharia Law” as the “third phase of Islamophobia” in the US, Ali highlights the way anti-Sharia Law movements and Sharia Law bans undermine the legal status of Muslim communities. This article frames anti-Sharia Law bans, such as the Oklahoma’s “Save our State Amendment,” within a longer history in which law reinforces racism towards Arabs and Muslims. These Islamophobic laws threaten to isolate and alienate Muslim communities across the US, which Ali stresses, deprive American Muslims of citizenship as a vehicle for practical rights and political activity. The article begins with an historical overview of Islamophobia in America, broken down into three periods: (i) pre-9/11; (ii) period immediately following the 9/11 attacks; and (iii) the period that began during the 2008 presidential campaign. After providing an overview of Sharia Law, and how anti-Sharia Law movements like the one in Oklahoma use Islamophobic rhetoric to vilify Muslims, Ali draws on Oklahoma’s Save our State Amendment to emphasize how institutionalized Islamophobia deprives American Muslims of using their citizenship to access practical and legal rights. The concluding section of this paper proposes a number of policies for systematically responding to the campaign of Islamophobia, including public education on Sharia Law, demanding that public officials take a stronger stance denouncing Islamophobia, and finally, the need for a stronger Muslim voice in the media that humanizes Muslims and allows them to define their own narrative. This article provides a fundamental overview of the negative impacts of Islamophobia on the US legal system, as well as Muslim-American rights to identity, political activity, and legal status.

Recent Perspectives

Elsheikh, Elsadig, Sisemore Basima, Lee Natalia Ramirez. “Legalizing Othering: The United States of Islamophobia.” Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, University of California, Berkeley: Berkeley, CA. (September 2017).

This report was published by the research team in the Haas Institute’s Global Justice Program. Its main purpose is to critically analyze all anti-Muslim legislation and bills introduced from the years 2010-2016 in state legislatures across the nation. Specifically, this report sheds light on the anti-Sharia movement—part of the more organized, “second phase” of Islamophobia in the US since 2010. In an attempt to uncover the far-reaching impact of anti-Muslim bills on Americans and the US legal system, this comprehensive report is divided into a few key sections. Firstly, it unmasks how anti-Muslim/anti-Islam movements have (i) propelled the adoption of federal measures (2002-2017) and (ii) utilized electoral politics and state legislatures (2010-2016) to disproportionately legalize the othering of Muslims across the US. Secondly, this report discusses the findings of the United States of Islamophobia Database—a comprehensive research tool developed by the Global Justice Program that identifies and provides detailed information of all anti-Sharia bills introduced in all 50 US state legislatures from 2000 to 2016. In analyzing these bills, the report uncovers the main themes, patterns, trends, and impacts of anti-Sharia legislation in the US. In tracing the origins of these anti-Sharia bills, this report visually maps the states in which they have been proposed and enacted, while exposing the deeper networks of anti-Muslim forces and movements working hand-in-hand to materialize these discriminatory bills. Finally, the report concludes with a series of recommendations to challenge the legal discrimination of Muslims in the US, such as proposing inclusive movements and cross-sectoral and coalition building efforts across racial and religious lines. This report provides a vital source of evidence-based research and findings on not only the discriminatory effects of anti-Sharia legislation, but, more deeply, the problematic structural impact of far-right anti-Muslim movements on the US legal system and American democracy more generally.

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