Creating an Islamic-American Culture
By Layla Abdullah-Poulos
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.