The arrival of Islam as a religion in the United States is far from new, yet neither the religion nor its adherents received much attention in American studies or cultural studies until Islam became a media and popular fixation, especially after September 11, 2001. In this sense, scholarly interest in Islam has responded to the obsessions of the U.S. public sphere, where the religion is poorly understood and often defined in imprecise or fallacious ways, resulting in inaccurate references to and representations of both Islam and the “Muslim” or “Arab” worlds. Locating “Islam” as a keyword for American studies and cultural studies thus requires an exploration of related terms such as “Muslim” and “Arab.” While not all Arabs are Muslim, and only about one-quarter of all Muslims are Arab, U.S. public discourse has often collapsed the religion and the ethnicity through the logics of Orientalism, wherein the inscription of a unified Other located in the “Orient” buttresses the equally fictitious sense that there is a unified West or “Occident” (Said 1978; Prashad 2007).

This essay may be found on page 145 of the printed volume.

Works Cited
Permanent Link to this Essay