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Sandy Russell Jones: High School Teachers Institute

Friday, April 12, 2024, 09:00am - 02:30pm

"The Historical Roots of Islamophobia"

April 12, 2024

9a – 2:30p

Sandy Russell Jones, Associate Teaching Professor, Department of History and Religion, Rutgers University

The term "Islamophobia" is a relatively new one that has only been widely used in the last few decades. The phenomenon it refers to - fear of and hostility toward Islam and/or Muslims - is often assumed to begin with the terrorists attacks of 9/11. While regrettable when directed at innocent Muslims not responsible for the attacks, these negative sentiments are sometimes considered understandable and in extreme cases, perfectly justifiable, as in: "they brought it on themselves." This seminar will explore how not only did Islamophobia not begin with 9/11, but that fear of and hostility toward Islam and Muslims on the part of "the West" has existed as long as Islam itself has existed. What began as a hatred of religious difference that also included anti-Semitism shifted during the Reconquista to the biological concept of blood purity (limpieza de sangre), which became a precursor to the modern concept of race. Scholars of Islamophobia have thus argued that Islamophobia might better be understood as anti-Muslim racism, an argument we will consider and discuss. Additionally, we will examine the ways in which Islamophobia is not only a sort of popular or cultural sentiment, but also a well-financed industry that undergirds US political, military, and economic policies both at home and abroad, helping to ensure the maintenance of global capitalism and the US interest in dominating it.

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