Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"Too damn Muslim to be trusted": The war on terror and the Muslim American response
by Hilal, Maha, Ph.D., American University, 2014, 342; 3633894
Abstract (Summary)

"Our war is not against Islam.....Our war is a war against evil…" -President George W. Bush.

Despite President Bush's rhetoric attempting to separate Muslims in general from terrorists who adhere to the Islamic faith, the policies of the War on Terror have generally focused on Muslims domestically and abroad, often for no greater reason than a shared religious identity with the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack (see for example, National Special Entry-Exit Registration). While foreign-born Muslims were the primary subjects of earlier policies in the War on Terror, several cases involving Muslim Americans suggest that despite holding U.S. citizenship, they may be subject to differential standards of justice (i.e. Hamdi v. Rumsfeld or the targeted killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki). Building on previous scholarship that has examined the Muslim American experience post 9/11, this dissertation focuses on the relationship between the substance and implementation of laws and policies and Muslim American attitudes towards political efficacy and orientations towards the U.S. government. In addition, this dissertation examines the relationship between policy design and implementation and Muslim American political participation, alienation, and withdrawal.

This study was approached through the lens of social construction in policy design, a theoretical framework that was pioneered by Anne Schneider and Helen Ingram. Schneider and Ingram (1993, 1997) focus on the role of public policy in fostering and maintaining democracy. With the goal of understanding public policy as a vehicle to promoting or inhibiting democracy, their analysis focuses on how the use of social constructions of different policy group targets can affect their attitudes towards government and citizenship, in addition to behaviors such as political participation.

According to Schneider and Ingram (1993, 1997, 20005), groups with favorable constructions can expect to receive positive treatment and exhibit positive attitudes towards government and participate at higher levels than groups with negative social constructions, who will develop negative orientations towards government, a decrease in feelings of political efficacy, and lower levels of political participation. Within this conceptualization of the impact of policy on target groups is the element of political power, which Schneider and Ingram (1993, 1997, 2005) examine as a measure of the degree to which different target groups can challenge their social construction and, subsequently, the policy benefits or burdens directed at them.

Research studying the impact of policies on differently constructed groups (welfare recipients, veterans, etc.) has empirically verified Schneider and Ingram's (1993, 1997, 2005) social construction in policy design theory. However, none of the existing research has yet to apply this framework to Muslim Americans as a group and in the context of counter-terrorism policies.

In order to situate the Muslim American responses according to the theories' main propositions, this study provides a background on many of the post 9/11 counter-terrorism policies, highlighting those policies that have disproportionately impacted members of this group. This research also examines how the War on Terror has been framed, and the actors involved in the construction of the Muslim image, with a focus on discerning the ways in which members of this population have been demonized and positioned as collectively responsible for acts of terrorism perpetrated by other Muslims.

This study utilized a mixed methods approach and included a quantitative survey and qualitative interviews. Purposive sampling was used in order to obtain a sample of Muslim Americans from different racial and ethnic backgrounds proportionate to the demographics of this community in the United States. The study findings are based on surveys from 75 individuals and interviews with 61 individuals.

The findings in this study reveal that Muslim Americans overwhelmingly perceive themselves to be the target of the War on Terror policies. Further, the data in this study shows that Muslim Americans across a range of backgrounds question the degree to which they are entitled to equity in both cultural and legal citizenship, including procedural justice. Despite exhibiting these views towards citizenship and procedural justice, a majority of Muslim Americans nonetheless reported increased levels of political participation as a response to policies that targeted them.

These findings provide additional empirical support for the social construction in policy design framework. Specifically, this data demonstrates that Muslim Americans in large part believe themselves to be the policy targets and have internalized many of the social constructions that have emerged vis-à-vis policy design and implementation. Consequently, Muslim Americans have developed subsequently negative orientations towards government and a sense of diminished citizenship. While the study results in terms of increased political participation may appear to be at odds with what the framework suggests, these increased levels of political participation are more properly couched as being a function of fear or threat, and in this sense a symptom of being targeted. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Abu-Nimer, Mohammed
Commitee: Fagelson, David, Mertus, Julie, Taylor, Steven
School: American University
Department: Justice, Law and Society
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 76/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Law, Islamic Studies, Public policy
Keywords: 9/11, Counterterrorism, Muslim americans, Muslims, Social construction, War on terror
Publication Number: 3633894
ISBN: 9781321140361
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