Date of Degree

6-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Middle Eastern Studies

Advisor

Mucahit Bilici

Subject Categories

Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures

Keywords

Islamophobia, Muslim ban, Institutional racism

Abstract

The Muslim ban is part of a storied American history of Islamophobia, and as such acts as more of a reflection of members of the population’s individually held beliefs about Muslims rather than a catalyst for such beliefs. Surveys of Americans on their opinions of Muslims seem to support this view: a “thermometer” reading of respondents’ views towards Muslims shows that from 2014 to 2017 to 2019, “cold” or negative opinions of Muslims actually decreased. This corresponds to a theory of individually directed Islamophobia that is not significantly impacted by institutional policy changes, such as the Muslim ban. But at the same time that negative thermometer ratings decreased, hate crimes against Muslims spiked in 2016 and the number of anti-Muslim hate groups tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center spiked in 2017. One possible explanation for this is that although the overall population’s Islamophobia was decreasing, a small core of individuals with prejudicial attitudes were radicalized and mobilized by Trump and structural policies like the Muslim ban enacted by Trump. In this way structural policy might act as a dog whistle to certain segments of the population to radicalize them and cause them to join hate groups or commit hate crimes. One potential solution to prejudice is intergroup contact theory, increased contact and familiarity between an ingroup and an outgroup. For this process to be successful, however, certain conditions must be met for reductions in prejudice to occur, such as an already extant belief in equality between the groups. It seems unlikely that these conditions would be met by the radicalized group in which Islamophobia is rising. Another solution that does not pose the risk that intergroup contact could go wrong or lead to even more entrenched prejudice is simply teaching factual information about Islam.

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