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Legalizing Othering: The United States of Islamophobia

By Elsadig Elsheikh, Basima Sisemore, Natalia Ramirez Lee, For Haas Institute , On 14 September 2017, Read Original
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This report on the anti-Sharia movement in the United States addresses the legalized othering of Muslim communities across the nation through anti-Muslim legislation and bills between the years 2000 and 2016. Within the broader context of rising anti-Muslim sentiment, discrimination, securitization and acts of violence against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim, this report sheds light on the anti-Sharia movement – part of the more organized, contemporary Islamophobia movement in the US since 2010. As a result of these organized Islamophobia efforts, the anti-Sharia legislation movement has been established, and continues to expand, by an unfounded fear of “creeping Sharia,” proliferated by fabrications, lies, and intentionally misconstrued information surrounding Muslims in the United States.

The impact of these anti-Muslim bills, and the degree to which, when enacted, they affect American citizens and the US legal system, has yet to be fully understood. To help better understand the ramifications of these bills, not just on Muslims, but all citizens, this report:

  • Contextualizes the inception of the anti-Sharia movement, which grew and became influential after 9/11 through the proliferation of anti-Muslim sentiment and racial anxiety
  • Reveals how the anti-Sharia movement formed alliances with other conservative movements to influence state legislation that effectively legalized the othering of Muslims in different parts of the country (2010 - present)
  • Reports on the findings of the United States of Islamophobia database – a comprehensive research tool that identifies and provides detailed information on all anti-Sharia bills introduced in the US state legislatures across the country from 2000 to 2016
  • Uncovers the main themes, patterns, trends and impacts of anti-Sharia legislation and the anti-Sharia movement
  • Proposes cross-sectoral and coalition building efforts
  • Aids the growth of effective, inclusive movements that cross racial and religious lines to stand against othering

Read our press release on the report here


The United States of Islamophobia database consists of two spreadsheets: One spreadsheet is aggregated to break down all the anti-Sharia bills introduced in the country by state, while the disaggregated spreadsheet breaks down the bills inside each state.

Aggregated (legislation broken down by state):

Aggregated database

Disaggregated (legislation broken down in each state):

Disaggregated database

Of 194 anti-Muslim bills proposed in state legislatures across the country from 2010 to 2016, 18 have passed and been enacted into law. The statements of purpose written into each of those laws can be found here.

For database citation, use: "The United States of Islamophobia database. Elsheikh, Elsadig; Sisemore, Basima; Ramirez Lee, Natalia. Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley, CA, September 2017"


The report includes interviews with 16 leading experts and knowledgeable sources listed below on subjects related to the themes and arguments outlined in the research. Only excerpts from those interviews were included in the report due to space, but the full interviews can be viewed through the links below:

Abed Awad is an attorney and Adjunct Professor at Rutgers University Law School. Awad is a national expert in Islamic law and the laws of Muslim countries. He has published extensively in various publications, and he has more than 200 television and radio appearances as a political and/or legal commentator for numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, ABC, CNN, Al-Jazeera, the BBC, and NPR, among others. Read his interview here.
Baher Azmy is the Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He directs all litigation and advocacy around issues related to the promotion of civil and human rights. At CCR, he has litigated cases related to discriminatory policing practices (stop and frisk), government surveillance, the rights of Guantanamo detainees, and accountability for victims of torture. In 2012, Baher was selected as one of the top 500 lawyers in America by Lawdragon Magazine. Baher has been published by and appeared on major media outlets including The New York TimesThe Washington Post, 60 Minutes, PBS Newshour, and MSNBC. Read his interview here.
Dalia Mogahed is the Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, where she leads the organization’s pioneering research and thought leadership programs on American Muslims. Mogahed is former Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, and co-author of the book Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think. President Barack Obama appointed Mogahed to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2009. She is also the CEO of Mogahed Consulting. Read her interview here.
Evelyn Nakano Glenn is Professor of the Graduate School (Ethnic Studies and Gender and Women's Studies) at the University of California, Berkeley. Her scholarly and political interests focus on race, gender, immigration, labor, and citizenship. She is the author of Forced to Care: Coercion and Caregiving in America (Harvard University Press); Unequal Freedom, How Race and Gender Shaped American Citizenship and Labor (Harvard University Press); and Issei, Nisei, War Bride: Three Generations of Japanese American Women in Domestic Service (Temple University Press). Professor Glenn is a past-president of the American Sociological Association and Founding Director of the Center for Race and Gender at UCB. Read her interview here.
Hassan Shibly is the Chief Executive Director of CAIR Florida. Mr. Shibly is a nationally recognized advocate for civil rights and has helped CAIR-Florida grow into one of the largest civil rights organizations in the country. Hassan is a lawyer, a speaker, and a teacher. He has dedicated his life to fostering a healthy cohesive relationship between American Muslims and society at large and protecting civil liberties. He has taught courses on civil rights, Islamic belief, law, history, spirituality and culture and serves as a consultant on Islam for NGO's, non-profit organizations, government agencies, media organizations, youth groups, and law enforcement. Read his interview here.
Hatem Bazian is a teaching professor in the Departments of Near Eastern and Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Bazian is a co-founder and Professor of Islamic Law and Theology at Zaytuna College, the first Accredited Muslim Liberal Arts College in the United States. In 2009, Dr. Bazian founded the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project (IRDP), a research unit at the Center for Race and Gender at UC Berkeley, dedicated to the systematic study of Othering Islam and Muslims. In 2012 IRDP launched the Islamophobia Studies Journal and Dr. Bazian serves as the journal’s Editor-in-Chief. Read his interview here.
Jehan Hakim is a Community Advocate with the National Security and Civil Rights Program at the Asian Law Caucus (ALC), and served as the former President of the California Chapter of the American Association of Yemeni Students and Professionals (AAYSP). She has collaborated with numerous organizations—including the Asian Law Caucus—in the Bay Area to support AMEMSA communities by providing Arabic translation, educational workshops on Islamophobia, Know Your Rights, and voter registration drives. She is also an ongoing panel speaker for the “Meet a Muslim” program. Jehan is Yemeni American from San Francisco. Read her interview here.
Karen Korematsu is the Founder and Executive Director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute and the daughter of the late Fred T. Korematsu. In 2009 Karen established the Fred T. Korematsu Institute to advance racial equity, social justice, and human Rights for all. Karen’s work, and her father’s legacy extends to advocating for civil liberties for all communities, and she addresses current issues that draw lessons from the past. She has signed on amicus briefs in several cases opposing violations of constitutional rights arising from 9/11, including Odah v. United States, Turkman v. Ashcroft, Hedges v. Obama, and Hassan v. City of New York. She authored the foreword to “Patriot Acts, Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice” in 2011. Read her interview here.
Laila Abdelaziz at the time of the interview was the Legislative & Government Affairs Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida. Laila’s work advanced CAIR Florida's mission to challenge Islamophobia and promote civil rights by leading advocacy campaigns that specifically engaged with local, state, and federal governmental agencies and officials. Read her interview here.
Mark Potok is currently writing a book about the rise of right-wing populism, and for 20 years helped lead the Southern Poverty Law Center’s premier operation monitoring the extreme right in the United States. Potok served as director of the Intelligence Project and, later, Senior Fellow at SPLC and Editor in Chief of its award-winning Intelligence Report investigative magazine, until leaving in 2017. In addition to editing the magazine, Potok was a key spokesman for the SPLC, a well-known civil rights organization based in Alabama, and testified before the Senate, the Helsinki Commission, the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights, and in other important venues. Read his interview here.
Muna Sharif is a Palestinian-American organizer based in Anaheim, California. She is currently a Field Organizer for Amnesty International USA, and formerly served as the Director of Jibreel Project, a campaign designed to inspire community action and resist state oppression through the mobilization of students via education, engagement and action. Muna received her Master’s degree in Public Policy and Nonprofit Administration from California State University Long Beach with an emphasis in Urban Affairs. Read her interview here.

Nour Bouhassoun is an AROC youth leader who moved to the United States from Syria in 2012. Nour attended Mission High School in San Francisco and is now pursuing an English degree at Kenyon College. Read her interview here.
Saeed A. Khan is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Near East & Asian Studies and Global Studies at Wayne State University-Detroit. Mr. Khan is also a Research Fellow at Wayne State University’s Center for the Study of Citizenship, and Honorary Fellow at Australian Catholic University. Mr. Khan has been a contributor to several media agencies, such as C-Span, NPR, Voice of America and the National Press Club, as well as newspapers and other outlets, and is also a consultant on Islamic and Middle East affairs for the BBC and the CBC. Read his interview here.
Samia Shoman Ed.D, is a Palestinian-American educator, and Manager of English Learner and Compliance Programs, San Mateo Union High School District. She taught high school social science in the Bay Area for 16 years and is currently the Manager of English Learner and Compliance Programs for the San Mateo Union High School District. Her teaching experience includes being a lecturer in the College of Ethnic Studies - Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diaspora Program at San Francisco State. Read her interview here.
Stephen Piggott is a Senior Research Analyst with the Southern Poverty Law Center. He is an expert on various forms of right-wing extremism, including the organized anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim movements, as well as white nationalism. Before joining the SPLC, Piggott worked as an analyst for the Anti-Defamation League in New York, and as a research analyst for the Center for New Community, a national civil rights organization based in Chicago. Read his interview here.
Zahra Billoo is a civil rights attorney and the Executive Director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). At the onset of 2017, Zahra joined the speaker lineup at the Women’s March on Washington and sued Donald Trump to challenge his “Muslim Ban” Executive Orders. Her work has been highlighted in local and national media outlets including the Christian Science Monitor, KTVU, MSNBC, NPR, and the San Jose Mercury News. Read her interview here.

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