Russell Johnson: “‘It Masquerades as a Religion’: Islamophobia, McCarthyism, and the American Imagination”

Russell Johnson

PhD Candidate, Philosophy of Religions

“It Masquerades as a Religion”: Islamophobia, McCarthyism, and the American Imagination

Wednesday, November 15, 4:30pm, Swift 208

Discussions surrounding the recent “Muslim Ban” have brought up deeper disagreements about the status of Islam in America. One group sees Muslims as an ethnocultural group and equates Islamophobia with xenophobia. Another group sees Islam as a “political ideology” that “hides behind being a religion,” to use the words of Trump advisor Michael Flynn. The former group draws parallels between Islamophobia and Nazi-era anti-Semitism, while the latter group interprets Islam through a comparison with global Communism. Drawing on rhetorical analysis and cognitive linguistics, I argue that these historical comparisons are essential to the ways anti-Islamic actions are understood in America. The legacy of the Red Scare in particular has been underappreciated in analyses of contemporary anti-Muslim prejudice. I propose that a comparative theological approach ought to include references to political ideologies like Communism in order to resolve ambiguities in the concept “religion.”

Refreshments will be served

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