Muslims as outsiders, enemies, and others: The 2016 presidential election and the politics of religious exclusion
- 524 Downloads
Despite Americans’ commitment to religious freedom, religious minorities have been marginalized and excluded since the country’s founding. Focusing on the 2016 election, this article analyzes the latest chapter in this history, in which Republican candidates constructed symbolic boundaries that defined Muslims as non-American (outsiders), anti-American (enemies), and un-American (others). It then draws parallels between contemporary anti-Muslim rhetoric and the historic treatment of Catholics, Jews, Mormons, and atheists. In each case, these religious groups have troubled a vision of American belonging that is tightly linked to white Protestant identity, and more subtly, to individualist and voluntaristic notions of the good religious (and democratic) subject. This recurrent pattern complicates the notion that American nationhood is rooted in civic rather than ethnic membership, instead revealing a complex interplay between civic and ethnic logics of exclusion. While efforts to purify the “Christian nation” rest explicitly upon an ethno-religious vision of American peoplehood, a subtler civic logic is also at work in efforts to frame religious minorities as uncivil threats to American values and norms, including religious freedom itself.
Keywordsnational identity religion symbolic boundaries Muslims 2016 election
I would like to thank Jeffrey Guhin as well as Jeffrey Alexander and Jason Mast for their valuable feedback on previous drafts.
- ABC News. (2016) Full text: Khizr Khan’s speech to the 2016 Democratic National Convention, August 1, http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/full-text-khizr-khans-speech-2016-democratic-national/story?id=41043609.
- Atkins, E. (2015) A complete guide to how the GOP candidates reacted to Syrian refugees after the Paris attacks. Think Progress, November 2015, https://thinkprogress.org/a-complete-guide-to-how-the-gop-candidates-reacted-to-syrian-refugees-after-the-paris-attacks-d7907203bdc4#.cbftlyop8.
- Beckwith, R.T. (2016) Read Donald Trump’s speech on the Orlando shooting. Time, June 13, http://time.com/4367120/orlando-shooting-donald-trump-transcript/.
- Bellah, R.N. (1967) Civil religion in America. Daedalus 96(1): 1–21.Google Scholar
- Bilici, M. (2016) American Muslims between legal citizenship and public exclusion. The Immanent Frame, http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2016/10/20/american-muslims-between-legal-citizenship-and-public-exclusion/.
- Bonilla-Silva, E. (2003) Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
- Bridgeland, J. (2016) Donald Trump fails George W. Bush’s lessons from 9/11. Time, October 19, http://time.com/4534927/donald-trump-muslim-911/.
- Brubaker, R. (1999) The Manichean myth: Rethinking the distinction between “civic” and “ethnic” nationalism. In: H. Kriesi, K. Armingeon, H. Siegrist and A. Wimmer, (eds.) Nation and National Identity: The European Experience in Perspective. Zurich: Rüegger, pp. 55–71.Google Scholar
- Brubaker, R. (2016) A new “Christianist” secularism in Europe. The Immanent Frame, http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2016/10/11/a-new-christianist-secularism-in-europe/.
- de Tocqueville, A. (2003 ) Democracy in America. New York: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
- Dolan, J.P. (1985) The American Catholic Experience: A History from Colonial Times to the Present. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company.Google Scholar
- Fetner, T. (2008) How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
- Geller, P. (2011) Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance. Washington, DC: WND Books.Google Scholar
- Givens, T.L. (2012) How Mormons became American. Religion and Politics, November 14, http://religionandpolitics.org/2012/11/14/how-mormons-became-american/.
- Glenn, E.N. (2002) Unequal Freedom: How Race and Gender Shaped American Citizenship and Labor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Gorski, P. (2008) Class, nation and covenant. The Immanent Frame, http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2008/03/21/class-nation-and-covenant/.
- Gorski, P. (2016) Why do Evangelicals vote for Trump? The Immanent Frame, http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2016/10/04/why-do-evangelicals-vote-for-trump/.
- Haberman, M. (2015) Donald Trump calls for surveillance of “certain mosques” and a Syrian refugee database. New York Times, November 21, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/us/politics/donald-trump-syrian-muslims-surveillance.html.
- Haberman, M. and Oppel, Jr., R.A. (2016) Donald Trump criticizes Muslim family of slain U.S. soldier, drawing ire. New York Times, July 30, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/31/us/politics/donald-trump-khizr-khan-wife-ghazala.html.
- Herberg, W. (1955) Protestant-Catholic-Jew: An Essay in American Religious Sociology. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Higham, J. (1955) Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860–1925. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
- Jones, R.P. (2016) The End of White Christian America. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
- Jones, R.P., Cox, D., Galston, W.A. and Dionne, Jr., E.J. (2011) What it means to be American: Attitudes in an increasingly diverse America ten years after 9/11. Brookings and Public Religion Research Institute.Google Scholar
- Kaplan, T. and Andrews, W. (2015) Presidential candidates on allowing Syrian refugees in the United States. New York Times, November 17, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/11/17/us/politics/presidential-candidates-on-syrian-refugees.html.
- Kruse, K. (2015) One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Manseau, P. (2015) One Nation, Under Gods: A New American History. New York: Back Bay Books.Google Scholar
- Miller, C. and Werner-Winslow, A. (2016) Ten days after: Harassment and intimidation in the aftermath of the election. Southern Poverty Law Center, https://www.splcenter.org/20161129/ten-days-after-harassment-and-intimidation-aftermath-election#antisemitism.
- Pew Research Center. (2015) America’s changing religious landscape. May 12, http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/.
- Rappeport, A. (2015) Donald Trump repeats call to inspect mosques for signs of terrorism. New York Times, November 16, http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2015/11/16/donald-trump-repeats-call-to-inspect-mosques-for-signs-of-terrorism/.
- Roediger, D.R. (2005) Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Said, E.W. (1978) Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
- Sarna, J.D. (2004) American Judaism: A History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Slayton, R.A. (2011) When a Catholic terrified the heartland. New York Times, December 10, http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/10/when-a-catholic-terrified-the-heartland/.
- Smith, R.M. (1997) Civic Ideals: Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in U.S. History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Smith, C. (2000) Christian America?: What Evangelicals Really Want. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Spencer, R. (2009) The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc.Google Scholar
- Sullivan, W.F., Hurd, E.S., Mahmood, S. and Danchin, P.G. (eds.) (2015) Politics of Religious Freedom. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Waldman, S. (2009) Obama touches the untouchables: non-believers. Huffington Post, February 20, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-waldman/obama-touches-the-untouch_b_159538.html.
- Wright, D. (2016) Hillary Clinton: I’ll say the words “radical Islamism.” CNN, June 14, http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/13/politics/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-orlando-attacks-reaction/.
- Zubrzycki, G. (2002) The classical opposition between civic and ethnic models of nationhood: Ideology, empirical reality and social scientific analysis. Polish Sociological Review 3: 275–295.Google Scholar