Fear in Our Hearts: What Islamophobia Tells Us about America

New York Univ. Jan. 2021. 208p. ISBN 9781479804580. $28. SOC SCI
Based on his work on the Mapping Islamophobia project, which began tracking anti-Muslim hostility after 9/11, this book by Elfenbein (Director of the Center for the Humanities, Grinnell Coll.) carefully examines whom we consider to be Americans, and how views of Muslim Americans are shaped through public discourse. Elfenbein cites research performed by his team at Mapping Islamophobia. They conducted a survey on national identity, which sparked additional research suggesting that many Americans doubt whether Muslims can hold democratic values. After the introductory chapter, the book explores “public hate” (public speech or activity that reinforces negative stereotypes about a particular group, thus creating fear or suspicion). The author convincingly argues that public hate makes it virtually impossible for certain groups to fully participate in public discourse, weakening civic society. Next, Elfenbein tries to trace the origins of hostility toward Muslims, and looks beyond 9/11 to a perceived fear of the other. The last chapter discusses what American Muslim communities are doing to counter anti-Muslim hostilities.
VERDICT Effectively showing the gulf between American ideals and reality, this book is recommended not only for those interested in American Muslims, but also for those interested in minority communities in general.
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