Nativism and Islam in America

I spent most of graduate school reading and writing about American nativism, the attitude that a uniquely American culture, tradition, or way of life is being threatened by something distinctly “foreign.” Although the target has changed throughout American history, there has always been a distinct strain of nativist attitudes in the United States. For most of the 1980s-2000s, for example, American nativism was predominantly concerned about the threat posed by Hispanic immigrants.

There seems to be some anecdotal evidence, however, that the target may be shifting from Hispanic immigrants to Muslim immigrants and the religion of Islam specifically. For example, Rep. Peter King of New York was on the news this weekend advocating a congressional hearing on the “radicalization of Muslim Americans”, saying that “something from within” the Muslim community threatening the United States. There was also a rather amusing satirical skit on the Daily Show early this month, where the host (Aasif Mandvi) argues that a Muslim version of “The Cosby Show” (the “Qu’Osby Show”) would be useful for breaking down anti-Muslim stereotypes in the U.S. Then there was the whole controversy late last year about the plans for a Mosque near the 9/11 Ground Zero site.

Again, this is all anecdotal at this point. I would be interested, though, to see if this is a trend that will continue or if it’s merely a short phase after which Hispanic immigrants will re-emerge as the primary focus of nativist concerns in the United States.

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