Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Middle Eastern Studies


Muccahit Bilici

Subject Categories

Other Social and Behavioral Sciences | Public Affairs | Race and Ethnicity | Social Policy | Sociology of Culture | Sociology of Religion | Terrorism Studies


Islamophobia and racism, converts to Islam, women and Islam, hijab, female Muslim immigrants, Jewish converts to Islam, Islamophobic jokes and sarcastic comments, solidarity with American Muslims, converts and celebration of religious holidays, differences between converts from Christianity and Judaism


This study compares the Islamophobic experiences of female converts and immigrants in America. It is based on interviews with a total of thirteen women, six Muslim born ones and seven converts. Both groups included hijabis and non-hijabis. Unlike most other studies, in which the converts are mostly or exclusively converts from Christianity, two of the interviewees were converts from Judaism while another one was a convert from a Christian/Buddhist/atheist background.

This study argues that Islamophobia is primarily manifested in the form of pervasive everyday racism that is levied at both female converts and immigrants alike, largely in the form of subtle nuances in their everyday interactions with non-Muslims. The study will illustrate that despite some notable differences, the experience of female converts and immigrants - and even the experience of hijabis and non-hijabis from both groups - with everyday racism is remarkably similar. This is largely because when a white American woman converts to Islam – a religion that is perceived as external to everything that America (and the West at large) stands for – more often than not, both her whiteness and her Americanness are tarnished. Thus, she tends to be perceived as not-quite-white and not fully American anymore, which is precisely why she is subjected to most of the subtle everyday forms of Islamophobia that female immigrants experience. These include racist comments and jokes, talking to hijabis using a demeaning tone and non-verbal nuances, such as staring at hijabis or dismissing them. The study will further argue that the experience of female converts who were not considered fully white to begin with, namely Jews, and women who are perceived as Hispanic, does not seem to be considerably different either. Thus, the study contends that since gender issues have long played such a pivotal role in the construction of otherness between Islam and the West, this seems to lead to an almost universal experience with everyday racism for Muslim women - who are identified as such through the hijab or otherwise - regardless of whether they are converts or immigrants, and irrespective of their actual or perceived racial background.

The study also identifies and elaborates on several challenges, experiences and dilemmas that only converts face. It also reveals three important differences between converts from Judaism and converts from Christianity. The last chapter sheds some light on convert and immigrant experiences in educating non-Muslims Americans about Islam. It also analyzes both converts and immigrants’ experience with solidarity from non-Muslim Americans.