The Fear of Islam

An Introduction to Islamophobia in the West

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Todd H. Green
  • Minneapolis, MN : 
    Fortress Press
    , May
     2015.
     362 pages.
     $24.00.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9781451465495.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

Use of the term Islamophobia increased after 2001 because of hate crimes against American and European Muslims. Many Americans see the Muslim peoples of more than fifty countries as a homogeneous monolith, and important leaders—such as Pope Benedict in his 2006 Regensburg address—continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes of non-westerners (a.k.a. “the Orient”) as anti-modern and anti-woman. Drawbacks of the term include prioritizing religion over race and class as causal factors in discrimination, and further perpetuating the idea of unified Islamic monolith. Because of these pros and cons, students in introductory Islamic studies or Middle East studies courses will share a confused familiarity with the term, and faculty may want a trustworthy resource that unpacks the topic.

Todd H. Green’s book The Fear of Islam fills this need successfully. Green’s expertise in European Christian History helped him to author three excellent chapters on the history of Christian-Muslim relations in the West, and two chapters on the media are well-written. His personal experiences as a Christian minister and Luther College professor in the American Midwest help him to encourage Christian readers to educate themselves beyond the frightening narratives produced by media companies. Chapter 9, where Green interviews North American Muslim leaders such as Keith Ellison, Eboo Patel, and Ingrid Mattson, also takes productive steps to lessen the problem of Islamophobia.

This book is an excellent choice for course adoption. The topic is treated in an unbiased manner, summarizes key points in a clear way, and provides useful references for further study. Large keyword boxes on many pages facilitate in-class quizzes or topics for classroom discussion.

Green sticks to the facts by using the 1997 Runnymede Trust definition of Islamophobia as fear of a monolithic Islam. For teachers in the classroom, it may be better that the book avoids the most pressing modernization challenges, such as Jerusalem, apostasy, and dawa. Green’s goal is to encourage readers to try to learn more about Islam to dispel harmful stereotypes. In my own teaching in Islamic studies this is a desirable educational outcome. If the American people can identify Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia on a map and start to think of them as distinct places with their own cultures, languages, traditions, and challenges, this will be a huge educational advance. John Esposito’s Who Speaks for Islam? (2007) had a similar goal and is also recommended for sparking further analysis. Possibly in the next few decades, Americans will be able to distinguish between African American Muslims, British Pakistani Muslims, French Algerian Muslims, and Turkish German Muslims, to name a few . . . not to mention significant Muslim communities in Nigeria, Indonesia, China, Senegal, Morocco, and more.

Green is probably correct to ignore recent comparisons between Islamophobia and the Cold War era “red scare.” Immigrant American Muslims are largely an affluent and proudly American professional community of doctors and engineers who collaborate extensively with law enforcement. Also, major Muslim countries are official allies. However, the refugee crisis in Europe, the use of drone strikes, and a stalled peace process in Israel are complex topics without easy solutions that are easily used to fuel xenophobic populism. In other words, students should be intrigued that academic discussions of a seemingly innocuous term about anti-Muslim prejudice actually involve civil rights, human rights, and foreign policy debates with high stakes that will be key to understanding world events for the next thirty, or even fifty years.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Vincent F. Biondo, III is Associate Professor of Philosophy at California State University, Fresno.

Date of Review: 
August 24, 2016
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Todd H. Green is associate professor of religion at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He is the author of numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals on the topics of Islamophobia and secularization in the West, along with the book Responding to Secularization: The Deaconess Movement in Nineteenth-Century Sweden (2011). Green is also the editor of Islam, Immigration, and Identity (2014).

Keywords: 

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