Resources for Understanding and Challenging Islamophobia

ISJ Spr14 COVER“Muslim subjects are constructed and judged in terms of, and in comparison to, the West, so they are always the Other, the conquerable, and the inferior.” – Edward Said, Orientalism

Trump’s call for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, and reference to internment camps sent out waves of shock and horror, catalyzing many non-Muslim groups into action. New and old questions are raised of how to collectively combat anti-Muslim racism, xenophobia, justifications for militarism abroad and domestic repression and surveillance.

How can anti-racist educators and activists step up in various ways to learn more about the deeper and broader historical contexts of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism, and strengthen capacities to intervene into this discourse of extreme othering, racial and religious profiling, media stereotypes, hate and bigotry? What obstacles exist to harnessing strengths from challenging other forms of racism, to direct them towards fighting Islamophobia in this dire time? How are white Americans being used to spread hate and fear, and how can we reach out to other white people from various faith and secular backgrounds? What are the many ways to stand in solidarity with Muslim and perceived-to-be Muslim communities who are being targeted?

While Trump’s statements shook many people awake to the severity of anti-Muslim discrimination and their chilling historical echoes, they are on the spectrum of political discourse that has existed over the course of the past 15 years. They also represent larger right-wing forces gaining traction in European countries and at home. This fear-mongering stretches back into long US and European histories of construction of the monolithic figure of the Muslim enemy to serve projects of resource control, empire-building and expansion.

We have gathered a range of resources to support ongoing (un)learning, critical reflection, analysis, action and alliance: Understanding and Challenging Islamophobia. Please let us know if you have more to add!

Defining “Islamophobia”

From the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project at UC Berkeley:

The term “Islamophobia” was first introduced as a concept in a 1991 Runnymede Trust Report and defined as “unfounded hostility towards Muslims, and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims.” The term was coined in the context of Muslims in the UK in particular and Europe in general, and formulated based on the more common “xenophobia” framework.

The report pointed to prevailing attitudes that incorporate the following beliefs:

  • Islam is monolithic and cannot adapt to new realities
  • Islam does not share common values with other major faiths
  • Islam as a religion is inferior to the West
    It is archaic, barbaric, and irrational
  • Islam is a religion of violence and supports terrorism
  • Islam is a violent political ideology

For the purposes of anchoring the current research and documentation project, we provide the following working definition:

Islamophobia is a contrived fear or prejudice fomented by the existing Eurocentric and Orientalist global power structure.  It is directed at a perceived or real Muslim threat through the maintenance and extension of existing disparities in economic, political, social and cultural relations, while rationalizing the necessity to deploy violence as a tool to achieve “civilizational rehab” of the target communities (Muslim or otherwise).  Islamophobia reintroduces and reaffirms a global racial structure through which resource distribution disparities are maintained and extended.


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