Nothing Has to Make Sense

Upholding White Supremacy through Anti-Muslim Racism

2022
Author:

Sherene H. Razack

How Western nations have consolidated their whiteness through the figure of the Muslim in the post-9/11 world

This book argues that the figure of the Muslim reveals a world divided between the deserving and the disposable, where people of European origin are the former and all others are confined to regimes of disposability. Emerging from critical race theory, and bridging with Islamophobia/critical religious studies, it demonstrates that anti-Muslim racism reveals white supremacy as a global force.

While much has been written about post-9/11 anti-Muslim racism (often termed Islamophobia), insufficient attention has been given to how anti-Muslim racism operates through law and is a vital part of law’s protection of whiteness. This book fills this gap while also providing a unique new global perspective on white supremacy. Sherene H. Razack, a leading critical race and feminist scholar, takes an innovative approach by situating law within media discourses and historical and contemporary realities. We may think of law as logical, but, argues Razack, its logic breaks down when the subject is Muslim.

Tracing how white subjects and majority-white nations in the post-9/11 era have consolidated their whiteness through the figure of the Muslim, Razack examines four sites of anti-Muslim racism: efforts by American evangelical Christians to ban Islam in the school curriculum; Canadian and European bans on Muslim women’s clothing; racial science and the sentencing of Muslims as terrorists; and American national memory of the torture of Muslims during wars and occupations. Arguing that nothing has to make sense when the subject is Muslim, she maintains that these legal and cultural sites reveal the dread, phobia, hysteria, and desire that mark the encounter between Muslims and the West.

Through the prism of racism, Nothing Has to Make Sense argues that the figure of the Muslim reveals a world divided between the deserving and the disposable, where people of European origin are the former and all others are confined in various ways to regimes of disposability. Emerging from critical race theory, and bridging with Islamophobia/critical religious studies, it demonstrates that anti-Muslim racism is a revelatory window into the operation of white supremacy as a global force.

Sherene H. Razack is professor of gender studies and Penny Kanner Endowed Chair in women’s studies at UCLA. She is author of Dying from Improvement: Inquests and Inquiries into Indigenous Deaths in Custody and Casting Out: Race and the Eviction of Muslims from Western Law and Politics.

Contents

Introduction: Anti-Muslim Racism, Whiteness, White Supremacy, and Law

1. “A New Phase of a Very Old War”: Islam and White Conservative Christian Aggrievement

2. “I Can Never Tell If You’re Responding to My Smile”: Desiring Muslim Women

3. “Terrorism in Their Genes”: Racial Science and the Muslim Terrorist

4. “We Didn’t Kill ‘Em, We Didn’t Cut Their Heads Off”: Torture and the Making of American Innocence

Conclusion: Arriving as Muslim

Acknowledgments

Appendix: Niqab/Burqa Bans by Country

Notes

Index