Native-born American Muslims

Creating an Islamic-American Culture

The “Othering” of White NbA Muslims

By Layla Abdullah-Poulos

flatfoot-76564_1280Concepts about whiteness and non-whiteness in the United States results in the deracialization of white people and places them “over” members of the country’s diverse non-white races and ethnicities.

 The socio-political placement of whites outside of race in the American racial structure generates a white-other binary, wherein whiteness is juxtaposed against the “other” in order to allocate social privileges based upon a specific circumstance of birth. Once accepting Islam, many  Euro-American Muslim converts experience a transition and at some level become part of the “other”, which affects how they navigate their whiteness, the American Muslim culture and the broader society.

In her blog post, Contested Whiteness:  True Tales of a White Muslim Woman Euro-American Muslim convert Deonna Kelli Sayed shares a story on how her whiteness is questioned by a white tow truck driver, during a service call, when he finds out she is Muslim.  Sayed experiences some “othering” during the encounter.  The tow truck driver infers that she was now another “race”, which is indicative of the racialization of Islam.   He also refers to Sayed using the term “your kind”.  However, Sayed still maintains some white privilege and is afforded courtesy’s indicative of her racial status. The tow truck driver encourages her to sit in his truck and freely discusses his aspirations with her, which is not something a person of color or non-white Muslim may anticipate in a similar social exchange.

The interaction between Euro-American Muslim Sayed and a non-Muslim white demonstrates how her Islamic religious social intersection affects her race.  It also shows the nuances of the country’s racial structure and how the growing Euro-American Muslim population may present a significant challenge to attempts to racialize Islam in the United States.  

Read Deonna Kelli Sayed’s Original Post:  Contested Whiteness: True Tales of a White Muslim Woman

About Layla Abdullah-Poulos

Layla Abdullah-Poulos is an alumna of SUNY Empire State College with a Bachelor of Arts in Historical Studies and Literature and is presently a student in the School for Graduate Studies. She expects to complete her studies and receive a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies and Advance Certificates in Women and Gender Studies and American Studies by 2016. An aspiring academic, Abdullah-Poulos uses her knowledge not only to develop her own scholarship but also that of other SUNY Empire State College students. A proponent for the enrichment of higher education through diversity, she plans to continue her work as an educator who conveys to students an ethnically diverse historical awareness and furnish them with the skills necessary to acquire political proficiency and constructively affect societal change.

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This entry was posted on August 4, 2015 by in Race/Ethnicity.

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