In Innocent Until Proven Muslim: Islamophobia, the War on Terror, and the Muslim Experience Since 9/11 published in 2022 with Broadleaf Books, Maha Hilal describes how narratives of 9/11 and the war on terror have been constructed over the last twenty years and the various ways in which they have justified state violence against Muslims. Hilal offers answers to many questions, including and especially how the war on terror started, what its impact on American Muslims and Muslims abroad has been, and how to work to dismantle it.
Hilal holds a PhD in Justice, Law, and Society from American University and has received many awards, including the Department of State's Critical Language Scholarship, the Kathryn Davis Fellowship for Peace, and a Reebok Human Rights Fellowship.
The book is written accessibly, making difficult concepts and themes easy to follow and understand. It is easily assignable in undergraduate and graduate courses and makes for an essential read for policymakers and for anyone interested in the Muslim American experience post-9/11, and perhaps anyone who denies the existence of institutional Islamophobia and naively thinks the U.S. is the beacon of light and justice in the world—because this book shows with ample evidence that it’s not.
In our conversation today, Hilal tells us the story of the origins of the book, what its contributions are, what makes it different from other books on Islamophobia, the roles that U.S. presidents since 9/11 have played in reinforcing and exacerbating Islamophobic rhetoric in the U.S. We also talk about the many U.S. policies, domestic as well as international, that legitimate the existence of Islamophobic state violence, the ways in which the FBI uses informants to entrap Muslims, the legal and narrative strategies that allow for the U.S. to commit extreme forms of torture against Muslims. We end with a discussion on internalized Islamophobia and, among other things, its harmful impact on Muslim Americans.
Shehnaz Haqqani is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Mercer University. She earned her PhD in Islamic Studies with a focus on gender from the University of Texas at Austin in 2018. Her dissertation research explored questions of change and tradition, specifically in the context of gender and sexuality, in Islam. She can be reached at [email protected]
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