The ‘mainstream Muslim’ opposing Islamophobia: self-representations of American Muslims
This paper explores the public self-representations of Muslim American leaders from major Muslim organizations in the United States as articulated in a local community engagement. I argue that the prevalent self-representations of the ‘mainstream Muslim’ and ‘American Islam’ have become politicized terms in an effort to construct a political and religious constituency in resistance to rampant Islamophobic expressions. By stressing compatibility and reconciliation with American political and social life, a counternarrative of citizenship and belonging emerges. Hence, the self-representations also shed important light on how Muslims as a minority group negotiate and perform politics of belonging and inclusion in the United States through the appropriation of powerful notions of what represents ‘the mainstream’. As any religious definition, ‘American Islam’ has to be understood as a particular discursive product specific to time and place. While highlighting hybridity and fluidity, as well as the flexibility of the religious faith with respect to interpretation, ‘American Islam’—a definition used by activists as well as scholars—also has essentializing tendencies overlooking particular voices and geographies within the Muslim community in the USA. Keywords : American Muslims, Islam in the United States, Islamophobia, identity politics, politics of belonging
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