Islamophobia represents a form of racism mixed with cultural intolerance

Islamophobia represents a form of racism mixed with cultural intolerance
Craig Considine. Credit: Rice University

Islamophobia represents a form of racism mixed with cultural intolerance as a whole, rather than simply intolerance of Muslims and Islam, according to a new paper from a Rice University sociologist.

"The Racialization of Islam in the United States: Islamophobia, Hate Crimes and 'Flying While Brown'" is published in the journal Religions. Author Craig Considine, a lecturer in sociology at Rice, reviewed more than 40 news articles and referenced dozens of academic studies relating to the experiences of American Muslims and the stereotypical depictions of Muslims. His analysis revealed several findings from the various articles and research papers that support his argument that racism is a symbolic form of Islamophobia, which has been misrepresented as a form of religious bias that oppresses U.S. Muslims on the grounds that Islam is nefarious and antithetical to American values.

"We often hear that because Muslims are not a race, people cannot be racist for attacking Muslims," Considine said. "This argument does not stack up. It is a simplistic way of thinking that overlooks the role that race plays in Islamophobic hate crimes."

Considine summarizes the findings below:

  • In 2016 alone, incidents of Islamophobia, including acts of violence and nonviolent harassment, rose by 57 percent.
  • More than half of hate crimes in the U.S. in 2015 – 59.2 percent – were linked to a race/ethnicity/ancestry bias. Only 19.7 percent of hate crimes were linked to a religious bias, and 17.7 percent to a sexual orientation bias.
  • More than 50 percent of Muslims experienced some form of hostility between 2010 and 2014, and more than one-third of Muslims felt they had been targeted on the basis of being identified as Muslim.
  • News outlets give drastically more coverage to crimes by Muslims. Attacks by Muslim perpetrators received, on average, 449 percent more coverage than crimes carried out by non-Muslims.
  • Out of more than 1,000 Hollywood films depicting Arabs, 932 of these films depicted them in a stereotypical or negative light. For example, Arabs/Muslims were constructed as the ominous figure: the bearded, dark-skinned, turban-wearing terrorist. Only 12 films depicted these individuals in a positive way.

Considine said that in spite of the racialization of Islam, the population of Muslims in the U.S. is heterogeneous. Of the approximately 3.3 million Muslims of all ages living in the U.S. in 2017, no single racial or ethnic group accounts for more than 30 percent of the total population. Thirty percent of U.S. Muslims describe themselves as white, 23 percent as black, 21 percent as Asian, 6 percent as Hispanic and 19 percent as other or mixed race. In addition, 81 percent of Muslims in the U.S. are American citizens.

"Despite the racial, ethnic and cultural diversity of the U.S. Muslim population, they continue to be cast as potentially threatening persons based on perceived racial and cultural characteristics," Considine said.

He also said the racially motivated incidents of hate crime examined in this paper – including one incident where a Sikh in Mesa, Ariz., was shot and killed in the days following Sept. 11 by a man who said he wanted to "kill a Muslim" in retaliation for the terrorist attacks – suggest that Islamophobia does not belong in the realm of "rational" criticism of Islam or Muslims. In this situation, the perpetrator confused the man's beard and turban as a representation of Islam, and effectively used his "race" to categorize and ultimately harm him in the worst way imaginable, Considine said.

"This incident and other incidents referenced in the paper are examples of how Muslims have been racialized and thus subjected to a kind of racism," he said. "This has led to U.S. citizens getting an idea of who the so-called 'bad guys' are and acting based on this knowledge. Taking a 'colorblind' understanding of Islamophobia – that is, to dismiss the role that race plays in anti-Muslim racism – legitimizes certain racialized practices and maintains inequalities such as racial profiling at airports, police brutality, housing and job discrimination and voter disenfranchisement."

Considine hopes the paper will raise awareness of the racialization of Islam in the U.S. and help to counter the rising Islamophobia across the country.

"We would be misguided to dismiss the role that race plays in incidents where Muslims and non-Muslims are targeted due to stereotypes of 'Muslim identity,'" he said. "This identity, insofar as the American context goes, appears to be weighted with racial meanings."

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More information: Craig Considine. The Racialization of Islam in the United States: Islamophobia, Hate Crimes, and "Flying while Brown", Religions (2017). DOI: 10.3390/rel8090165
Provided by Rice University
Citation: Islamophobia represents a form of racism mixed with cultural intolerance (2017, September 14) retrieved 22 April 2019 from
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User comments

Sep 14, 2017
I don't mind Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians or Atheists...
I just don't have tolerance for assholes, idiots or jerks who enable those "afflictions" by providing themselves an excuse as to why they don't have to take responsibility for their own actions...

Sep 14, 2017
if you spread hatred, intolerance and violence, you cant expect anything different back.

It is widely self evident that islam is incompatible with secular, liberal democratic societies

Sep 14, 2017
wahhabism is the problem but the other muslims must not enable this .

Sep 14, 2017
Someone shooting a Sikh thinking he was a Muslim proves that this kind of intolerance is rooted in ignorance.

Sep 15, 2017
Published in the journal Religions-- pretty much says it all.

By the way, didn't the Arab/Muslim world spend 30 years agitating to force the UN to call Zionism racism? Yet it is the express goal of many Arab/Muslim governments to wipe Israel off the map and kill a lot of westerners while re-taking every inch of territory in Europe they lost 500 years ago. Sounds like a whole lot of racism to me and grounds for plenty of "phobia" from their intended victims/subjects.

Submission. Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue does it?

Sep 15, 2017
Not just intolerance - it's ignorance. Most people don't even know what a muslim lifestyle is (heck, most people who think of themselves as 'christian' don't even know what that means - otherwise they'd have to come to the realization that they are living in an entirely un-christian way.)

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