Evaluating Muslim American Representation
By Nazita Lajevardi, Michigan State University and Liesel Spangler, Independent Scholar
There is growing concern about the status of Muslims in the United States today. Anti-Muslim attitudes are pervasive (Kalkan, Layman, and Uslaner 2009; Oskooii, Dana, and Barreto 2019; Panagopoulos 2006; Williamson 2019) and matter for shaping candidate (Kalkan, Layman, and Green 2018; Lajevardi and Abrajano 2019) and policy support (Dunwoody and McFarland 2018; Lajevardi and Oskooii 2018). The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that both anti-Muslim hate crimes and hate groups soared in response to the 2016 presidential campaign: in 2017, anti-Muslim hate groups grew for the third straight year to 114 chapters, and hate crimes increased by at least 19% from the previous year. Even more troubling for the prospect of Muslim American inclusion is evidence of large-scale negative and explicit rhetoric about Muslims espoused by political elites, indicating perhaps that Muslim political representation is greatly lagging. For example, scholarship has linked the xenophobic rhetoric that was spewed by the most powerful officeholder in the country—former President Trump—with increased anti-Muslim hate crimes across the country (Müller and Schwarz 2018). During the 2016 presidential campaign, politicians on both sides of the aisle frequently reminded the public that Muslims intrinsically differ from other Americans. Republicans called for the wholesale policing of Muslim neighborhoods, advocated for a ban on Muslims from entering the country, proposed a national database of all Muslims in the United States, and espoused the wholesale surveillance of mosques (Lajevardi 2020); Hillary Clinton characterized Muslims’ utility as their ability to prevent terrorist attacks (Lajevardi 2020).