American Muslim Character Cancellation: Framing Engagement through the Sphere of Deviance

Jibril Latif
2020 Media and Communication  
While freedom of religion is constitutionally safeguarded in the United States, practice and expression thereof are modulated by apparatuses exhorting both ethnic and faith communities to flatten into expedient caricatures. The 'moderate Muslim' caricature is contingently acknowledged as a victim of animus thereby expected to unquestioningly advance state objectives. American Muslim scholars consequentially maintain a vigilant wariness of state engagement, sentiments further intensified when
more » ... intensified when Donald Trump came to power. With the Trump regime's perilous track record, Muslims willing to engage the federal government during the initial term were expectedly criticized. Situating the American Muslim communal consultation process (al-shūrā), this article analyzes 100 opinion editorials responding to the Department of State's formation of the Commission on Unalienable Rights in 2019, and its inclusion of a recognizable Muslim scholar as commissioner. For disparate reasons, editorials authored by critical communal voices formulated a perceived consensus against any engagement with the regime whatsoever, suggesting self-censoring expressive parameters and balkanization. Using Daniel Hallin's sphere of deviance, findings indicate that amidst increased expectations for religious leaders to be more accessible and accommodating, communal consultation on political issues broke down in the virtual spaces the scholar's critics inhabited whilst his own public relations messaging operated with discernable ambivalence. Findings further suggest that as American Muslims increasingly identify with the social justice language of the far-left, communal thought leaders' racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds disproportionately factor into how their words and engagements are interpreted and tolerated.
doi:10.17645/mac.v8i4.3121 fatcat:voaexcchjfdirefywjhihwl6wm