Chapter 5: The Demonization of Persons of Arab and Muslim Ancestry in Perspective

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Samuel Martinez




University of California Press




The demonization of Arabs and Muslims in the United States, as well as federal government actions that target Arabs and Muslims in the name of combating terrorism, began years before September 11, 2001 (Akram 1999). Nearly ten years before that day, Lawrence Howard (1992: 1) wrote that the Reagan administration had elevated terrorism “to the foremost foreign policy problem of the nation.” Well before 9/11, that policy concern focused almost exclusively on “foreign terrorists,” particularly Arabs and Muslims. The demonizing of Arabs and Muslims in the United States also can be traced to popular stereotypes (Said 1996: 28; Yousef & Keeble 1999), years of myth-making by film and media (Shaheen 2001), racism during times of national crisis (see J. C. Salyer’s chapter in this volume), and a campaign to build political support for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Since at least the 1970s, U.S. laws and policies have been founded on the assumption that Arab and Muslim noncitizens are presumed terrorists, and have targeted them for disfavored treatment under the law. The post-9/11 targeting of Muslims and Arabs is simply the latest chapter in this long history.

This document is currently not available here.

Link to Publisher Site Link to Publisher Site (BU Community Subscription)