How To Talk About Islamophobia – DCTN Event 5/4/16 – Notes

This event is not a tolerance event!  It is about learning about the structural violence of Islamophobia, not about “better understanding your neighbor”

Started with small groups coming up with working definitions of Islamophobia:

  • Definitions the four groups came up with:
    • First:
      • Stigma
        • Violent
        • Inhuman
        • Inferior
        • Ignorant
        • Racialized
    • FEAR of who Muslims are
      • *not just interpersonal, STATE SANCTIONED
      • Part of political machine and   BIGOTRY
  • Second:
    • Unconscious fear of any encounter with Islam
    • Systems built to violently harm Muslims and restrict Muslim access
    • Victims of Islamophobia are disenfranchised
    • Victims are not always Muslim (Sikh, non-Muslim Arabs)
      • Brown people---racism
    • Prejudice against Muslims/Islam
    • Conscious/conditioned negative reaction
  • Third
    • Hatred or fear of people who are actually or perceived to be Muslim
    • Assumptions  based on appearance
    • Systematic v. interpersonal
  • Fourth
    • Religion based hatred
    • Unfounded fear against Islam
      • Racism
    • Associated with xenophobia
    • Fueled by personal beliefs and state sponsored policies
    • Religion, race, xenophobia, structural elements in power systems
    • Ignorance and miseducation 
    • Definitions from facilitators:
      • A working definition of Islamophobia
        • Islamophobia is a form of structural violence (e.q. economic, political, social, cultural, and historic) targeted at Muslim communities or those perceived as Muslim. It is built upon foundational forms of violence, an is an extension of oppressive structures in order to uphold white supremacy and Eurocentric hegemony.
        • Some of these foundational forms of violence include:
          • Colonialism, orientalism, and neocolonialism(imperialism)
          • Xenophobia
          • Settler colonial violence and genocide
          • Anti-black racism
          • Patriarchy
          • Capitalism
  • Prevailing attitudes that comprise Islamophobia include:
    • Islam is a monolith
    • Islam does not share common values with other major faiths
    • Islam is a religion that is inferior to western/Eurocentric ideals
    • Islam is barbaric, archaic, and irrational
    • Islam is a violent political ideology
    • Islam is a religion of violence and supports terrorism
    • Islam is sexist


PowerPoint Presentation

  • Islamophobia is a foundational violence: it is at the foundation of many other types of violence
  • The history of Islamophobia is also the history of anti-Black racism
    • First Muslims in Western Hemisphere were enslaved Africans in Hispaniola
    • Four Spanish edicts were made to restrict Muslims b/c of perception as threat due to ability to read/write in a language not understood by colonial masters
    • The Bandung and The Muslim International
      • Majority of the participants were from Muslim-majority nations, often cited by Malcolm X
      • One of many efforts at attempting to internationalizing struggle and framing anti-Black racism as imperialism
      • Prison Industrial Complex
        • Extension of Imperial State
        • Prison as a window where Black folks can be exposed to Islam, political education à fear of “radicalization” potential, Rep. Peter King: “Prislam”
        • Impacts of Islamophobia
          • Islamophobia as the extension of orientalism and colonialism à structural and historic lens needed, Islamophobia is more than just post-9/11
          • Impacts of Structural Islamophobia
            • Wars of aggression and prevention
            • Controlling governance and resources of Muslim-majority countries
            • Racialization of Muslims (South Asian, Middle Eastern, Persian, Arab, North African)
            • Politicization of Muslim identity
            • A global “civilizing project” of Muslims
  • Policies Built on Structural Islamophobia
    • War on Terror (War OF Terror, creates terror where it goes)
    • At least 4 million killed between just Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan alone in last 25 years
    • US has bombed 7 Muslim-majority countries since 9/11
      • In 2015 alone, 23,144 bombs dropped
    • Mass surveillance of Muslim communities domestically
    • Deportations, detentions, entrapments, and disappearances taking toll on Muslim communities
    • CVE policies à framing that Muslim communities only matter through a national security lens
    • Special registration
    • Social/cultural impacts of Islamophobia
    • Normalization of Islamophobic behavior/mentalities, and the denial that they exist; erasure
    • Justification of violence (oh, but it’s okay if we killed hundreds of innocent families, we killed a terrorist too) à state narrative
    • Gendered Islamophobia
      • “But what about the women?”
      • Narrative of saving women
        • Interpersonal
          • Hijabi women are targeted because of visible signs
          • Implication that there is something “radical” or “terrorist” about hijab à used as a measure of country not being progressive
    • Structural
      • Justifying occupation (situation of women cited by Bushes as reason to occupy Afghanistan) à discussion of “saving women”
      • Manipulating women’s rights for imperial purposes; imperial White feminism doesn’t listen to actual women in countries being occupied
      • Quote: “Understanding Islamophobia cannot be separated from understanding US foreign policy”

Pillars of Power Exercise (See pillars of power image) 


Pillars at Play in Upholding the Surveillance and Entrapment of Muslims

  • CVE Programs
  • NSA/Data Collection
  • FBI history
  • Internalized Islamophobia
  • State Department programs
  • Colleges/Universities
  • Anti-radicalization programs
  • Mosques/Community Centers
  • “Spokespeople”

Workshopped Various Scenarios and the Pillars of Power at play in them

  • Drone Strikes
    • Intelligence agency
    • Kill list
    • Racism- otherization of Muslim communities
    • Public deferenceà “Suspected”



Alternative media/media jacking



No “boots on the ground”

  • “prevention” tactics
  • Uniformed population
  • Media collusion and propaganda
  • Antiseptic language  

Divestment (endowments and pensions)


Military industrial complex

  • Money
  • Overconfidence in tech
  • Assumed combatant age 16-40
  • Disenfranchised tribes
  • Lack of self determination
  • Underlying values
    • dehumanization of Muslims
    • Sexism and ageism
    • Armies now control civilian populations (not other armies) 
    • Culture of fear and scarcity
    • Attack of Black Muslim woman in Chevy Chase outside Starbucks
      • Failure of MPD/law enforcement training and response
      • Power of narrative: media, government, Washington Post
      • Spin/minimazation
      • Victim blaming
      • Bystander “syndrome”, non-intervention
      • Silence of involved/culpable parties (Starbucks, Trump)
      • Failure of corporate training
      • Normalization/entitlement/comfort (in bigotry) emboldened *Trump
      • White Supremacy and xenophobia
      • “otherization”, “perpetual foreigner”
      • Lack of legal protection/state protection
      • “Freedom of Speech”= tolerance of bigotry= structural violence
        • Hate speech as protected speech
        • Speech as privilege
  • Activist work on Islamophobia encourages view placed on incidents by media
  • Misogyny/misogynoir
  • Gentrification
  • Politicization of Islam
  •  Community responsibility

Some Resources and Community Orgs working on Islamophobia:

  • Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum
  • National Coalition To Protect Civil Freedoms
  • National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
  • South Asian Americans leading Together

Some Great Resources if you’re looking to better/deepen your analysis

  • The Intercept
  • Tanqeed
  • Jadaliyya
  • Saadia Toor
  • Deepa Kumar



You can contact if you are interested in doing more locally