Tolerance and Risk

How U.S. Liberalism Racializes Muslims

2021
Author:

Mitra Rastegar

How apparently positive representations in U.S. media cast Muslims as a racial population

In Tolerance and Risk, Mitra Rastegar brings together several case studies to examine the interrelation of representations of Muslims abroad and in the United States. Rastegar demonstrates how representations of tolerable or sympathetic Muslims produce them as a population with distinct characteristics, capacities, and risks, and circulate standards by which the trustworthiness or threat of individual Muslims must be assessed.

Portrayals of Muslims as the beneficiaries of liberal values have contributed to the racialization of Muslims as a risky population since the September 11 attacks. These discourses, which hold up some Muslims as worthy of tolerance or sympathy, reinforce an unstable good Muslim/bad Muslim binary where any Muslim might be moved from one side to the other. In Tolerance and Risk, Mitra Rastegar explores these discourses as a component of the racialization of Muslims—where Muslims are portrayed as a highly diverse population that nevertheless is seen to contain within it a threat that requires constant vigilance.

Tolerance and Risk brings together several case studies to examine the interrelation of representations of Muslims abroad and in the United States. These include human-interest stories and opinion polls of Muslim Americans, media representations of education activist Malala Yousafzai, LGBTQ activist discourses, local New York controversies surrounding Muslim-led public projects, and social media discourses of the Syrian refugee crisis. Tolerance and Risk demonstrates how representations of tolerable or sympathetic Muslims produce them as a population with distinct characteristics, capacities, and risks, and circulate standards by which the trustworthiness or threat of individual Muslims must be assessed.

Tolerance and Risk examines the ways that discourses of liberal rights, including feminist and LGBTQ rights, are mobilized to racialize Muslims as uncivilized, even as they garner sympathy and identification with some Muslims.

Mitra Rastegar is clinical associate professor of liberal studies at New York University. Her work has been published in GLQ: Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, and International Feminist Journal of Politics.


Contents


Introduction: Tolerance and Anti-Muslim Racism


1. News Stories, Police Profiles, and Opinion Polls: Muslims as a Population of Risk


2. From Reading Lolita to Reading Malala: Sympathy and Empowering Muslim Women


3. “Iran, Stop Killing Gays”: Queer Identifications and Secular Distinctions


4. Defamed and Defended: The Precarity of the “Moderate” Muslim Americans


5. “Muslims Worth Saving”: The Syrian Refugee Crisis and Humanitarianism


Conclusion


Acknowledgments


Notes


Index