American Muslims and American Politics


Abu Nimer, Mohammed. “Muslims in the American Body Politic.” In Muslims’ Place in the American Public Square: Hopes, Fears, and Aspirations, edited by Zahid Bukhari et al. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira, 2004.

  • Nimer considers the ways in which different groups of American Muslims engage the American political process. He concentrates on American Muslim public concerns, relationships with other Muslim and non-Muslim groups, and electoral participation, concluding that empowerment is the the major goal for Muslim political engagement in mainstream U.S. politics.

Ahmad, Mumtaz. “Muslims Search for Religio-Political Space in America.” In Muslim Citizens in the West: Spaces and Agents of Inclusion and Exclusion, edited by Samina Yasmeen and Nina Markovic. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2014.

  • Ahmad argues that post-9/11, American Muslims are re-thinking socio-political activism, shifting their gaze away from electoral politics to social movement politics. By forming partnerships and coalitions with other American progressives (on issues such as immigration, health care, and civil rights), Muslim organizations are building interfaith relationships with non-Muslim communities and challenging members of the wider American Muslim community to mobilize politically.

Bail, Christopher. Terrified: How Anti-Muslim Fringe Organizations Became Mainstream. Princeton University Press, 2014.

  • Bail examines how collective actors compete to shape shared understandings of Islam within the American media, the policy process, and everyday life. Focusing on how fringe anti-Muslim groups fuel popular narratives, which in turn further exacerbates civil discord and division, Bail approaches his question through the two-pronged approach of interviews with leaders from various organizations that are part of the debate as well as making smart use of big data in an attempt to understand how public discourse shifts and is shaped.

Cesari, Jocelyn, ed. Muslims in the West after 9/11: Religion, Politics, and Law. New York: Routledge, 2010.

  • Harvard professor Jocelyn Cesari’s edited volume studies the identity of Islam after 9/11 in western foreign policy through the use of “culture talk,” or the creation of an essentialized model of Islam incapable of modern reform. The authors tackle wide ranging topics, such as the secularization of Islam, integration into European societies, and the creation of a Muslim enemy in public speech. Far from giving firm data to solve issues, Muslims in the West after 9/11 displays the incredible complexity of Islam’s presence in the west.

Esposito, John, and Ibrahim Kain, eds. Islamophobia: The Challenge of Pluralism in the 21st Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

  • “Islamophobia,” which editors Esposito and Kalin describe as the “dread, hatred, and hostility towards Islam and Muslims perpetrated by a series of closed views that imply and attribute negative derogatory stereotypes and beliefs to Muslims” is a hotly contested term (xii–xiii). This volume attempts to examine, question, and refine conversations about the phenomenon of Islamophobia through multi-disciplinary and comparative approaches, including sociology, political science, religion, and history. Numerous case studies, such as the depiction of Muslims in literature, art, pop culture, and public policy, in multiple locations, including Europe and the U.S., provide lenses through which to examine the complexity of Islamophobia.

Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck, “Muslims in U.S. Politics: Recognized and Integrated, or Seduced and Abandoned?” SAIS Review 21, no. 2 (Summer-Fall 2001): 91-102.

  • Dr. Haddad’s essay examines the political identity and activity of immigrant American Muslims (leaving aside African-American Muslims), and raises the perennial question of how immigrants adopt and adapt to US political realities. She notes splits both within this immigrant community (which is geographically and ethnically diverse), and between generations of immigrants who came prior to and after the immigration reform acts of the 1960’s. Additionally, the events of 9/11 as well as continuing turmoil in some Muslim majority countries complicates American Muslim political action. She ends with a plea from Dr. Agha Saeed for sustained attention to continued political engagement.

Jamal, Amaney. “The Political Participation and Engagement of Muslim Americans: Mosque Involvement and Group Consciousness.” American Politics Research 33 (July 2005): 521-44.

  • This essay explores the role of mosque attendance and participation and whether and how it impacts political and/or civic engagement, as well as its correlation with perceptions about discrimination. Importantly, it examines these elements of social activity as differentiated between Arab, South Asian, and African American Muslim communities. The findings are diverse, implying that mosque participation and political/social activity are linked differently for different Muslim communities.

Johnson, Steve. “Political Activity of Muslims in America.” In The Muslims of America, edited by Yvonne Haddad. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

  • Although now somewhat dated, Johnson’s chapter contains interesting insights on the development of Muslim American political activity during the 1980’s. Here we can see how different groups—like the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)—began negotiating and organizing American Muslims, particularly in terms of educations campaigns about the right to vote and the development of separate political organizations. Similar to Amaney Jamal’s essay, the Muslim American community is divided between Arab, South Asian, and African American groups, distinctions that remain important nearly twenty-five years later. As such, it is an interesting window into the history of Muslim American political organizing and attitudes.

Kundnani, Arun. The Muslims are Coming: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror. Brooklyn: Verso, 2015.

  • The Muslims are Coming extensively explores America’s and Europe’s counter-radicalization strategies in the post-9/11 world and the ways in which they encourage terrorism and political violence. Kundnani analyzes two dominant security ideologies: culturalism, which blames Muslim culture for the existence of terrorism, and reformism, which identifies the perversion of Islamic doctrine as the cause for political violence. He argues through the use of well-documented accounts of arrest, entrapment, and deaths of Muslims that the state’s inability to properly diagnose the causes for terrorism begets terrorism.

Khan, M.A. Muqtedar. American Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom. Beltsville, MD: Amana Publications, 2002.

Shiekh, Irum. Detained Without a Cause: Muslims’ Stories of Deportation in America after 9/11. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

  • As an oral history of six New York based Muslim immigrants, Detained Without a Cause reveals the human cost to the “War on Terror” through a look at the wrongful incarcerations and human rights violations stemming from false or flimsy charges against Muslim immigrants. Each chapter presents a different first-person story, illuminating the voices that are emblematic of the post-9/11 Muslim experience with the intersections of the domestic “War on Terror,” immigration laws, and Muslim scapegoating.

Shryock, Andrew, ed. Islamophobia/Islamophilia: Beyond the Politics of Enemy and Friend. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2010.

  • In this edited work stemming from a 2007 conference, leading scholars discuss the concern of Islamophobia’s increasing presence in the west. Uniquely, however, this work also critiques the rise of Islamophilia, the generalized affection for Islam in an attempt to foster public acceptance. This volume argues that both are damaging to Islam, for they perpetuate a good Muslim/bad Muslim binary through the use of simplified, selective examples that distort real and practiced Islam.

Sinno, Abdulkader H, ed. Muslims in Western Politics. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2009.

  • Muslims in Western Politics, a volume of essays edited by Assistant Professor of Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies at Indiana University, Abdulkader Sinno, explores the issues of political representation, identity, civil liberties, and security. Divided into four sections, the volume considers the relationships between Muslims and established state religions, political institutions, and civil rights in transatlantic scope, ranging from North America to Europe.

Sinno, Abdelkader. “Muslim Americans and the Political System.” In The Oxford Handbook of American Islam, edited by Yvonne Haddad and Jane I. Smith. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

  • Sinno examines the state of research regarding the politics of Muslim Americans, which he defines as American Muslim political activism and the instrumentalization of Muslim minorities by politicians, political pundits, and media figureheads. He identifies gaps in the academic literature regarding Muslim Americans in politics and recommends quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches to generate future studies.