Muslim Americans Should Reject the Politics of Normalcy (for The Atlantic)

It seems like every day, there is a new story involving Muslim Americans being kicked off of planesharassed onlineassaulted on the street, or worse. With news of each new terrorist attack perpetrated by extremists in the United States and abroad, Islamophobia is on the rise. Donald Trump has made suspicion of American Muslims a pillar of his campaign, and discussions of blanket bans and religious tests for immigrants have become so regular as to be mundane.

Muslims thus feel obligated to broadcast their all-American identity, whether by disguising their foreign-sounding names, changing their appearances, avoiding their native tongues, or obscuring their religious affiliations. Increasingly, Muslim Americans feel the need to make themselves appear as “normal” as possible by white, Christian standards. Whether through donning a hijab or appearing to speak Arabic, openly existing as Muslim has material consequences. Muslims thus attempt to combat Islamophobia by simply blending in. But true acceptance for Muslims will only come when those Muslims who wear their religious differences openly are seen as being just as American as those whose choices hew closer to the norm.

There is a parallel between the situation of American Muslims and the standards of “respectability” often demanded of African Americans. In order to deter discrimination or even violence, some black Americans have sought to present themselves a certain way by dressing, speaking, or behaving in ways that put white people at ease––in other words, they go out of their way to try to command the kind of respect whites can expect by default.

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