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How is Religion Racialized?: Examining Anti-Muslim Racism through Campus Climate, Civic Engagement and Racial Belonging

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After the 2016 Presidential election, students on a California university campus threatened and attempted to rip off a Muslim women's hijab. The persistence of anti-Muslim racism in U.S. society two decades following September 11, 2001, reveals deeper colonial roots of the racialization of religion. Muslim Americans worldwide and in the U.S. continue to experience overt violence in public places, including schools. Yet, studies on Muslim college students' experiences focus primarily on interpersonal racism from interactions with school officials and students. Few consider how the global War on Terror permeates higher education's bounds to institutionalize anti-Muslim racism. Further, studies of Muslim racialization primarily sample Arab and South Asian Muslims while focusing on the Muslims' collective religious identity, thus overlooking the racial heterogeneity of this community. This study advances an understanding of anti-Muslim racism as a fluid racial project that manifests through hyper(in)visibility - both the overt and covert racial mechanisms that institutionalize racial-religious inequality. My results rely on multivariate analyses of 2016 University of California Undergraduate Surveys (N=63,115), qualitative analysis of 85 in-depth interviews with Muslim students, and a case study of a participatory action research photovoice project. This study demonstrates how religion is racialized and experienced amid other salient targeted identities such as race, ethnicity, gender, refugee background, and imperial and colonial contexts. By examining in-depth case studies, and inter-religious, intra-racial comparisons, this study reveals the intersectional variations that lead to differential experiences with institutional racism, civic participation, and racial belonging.

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This item is under embargo until August 10, 2026.