Sacralizing Citizenship, Negotiating Surveillance, Imagining the Law: American Islam and Alternative Racialization

Talk by Professor Spencer Dew

Islam, in the United States, stands as a loaded signifier. While Islam has long been linked, by state agents, to threats to the state, equally important is a deep history of African American thinkers reading Islam as related to racial equality, divine justice, full citizenship, political clout, legal standing, even American exceptionalism. This presentation examines such African American imagining and instantiations of Islam in the context of anti-black social structures as well as law enforcement and watchdog organization surveillance of Islamic communities, and considers, too, ways that African American Islam has been used to understand and motivate legal activism. With particular attention to the diverse Moorish Science Temple of American movement as well as to the Nation of Islam, the Washitaw de Dugdahmoundyah movement, and the Nuwabian Nation, this talk seeks both to widen the frame of thinking about US Islamic communities and to address issues of academic complicity in the policing, misrepresentation, and criminalization of such communities.

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