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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"Where are the moderate Muslims?" : fraught Muslim positionalities in post-9/11 New York Mohibullah, Huma


This dissertation examines how the ongoing repercussions of the September 11, 2001 attacks on The World Trade Center (“9/11”), and the haunting legacy of the Twin Towers’ collapse, have affected the religious subjectivities, identity positionings and spatial perceptions of American Muslims living in New York City. Anti-Muslim conservatives continue to perceive Islam as an inherently extremist political system and cynically ask, “Where are the moderate Muslims?” In this framing, Muslim Americans are often de-Americanized and treated as outsiders in the United States—a narrative that was exacerbated during Donald Trump's presidential campaign. Based on 24 months of fieldwork, my dissertation analyzes, first, how Muslim New Yorkers navigate the suggestion that religious moderation among Muslims is a rarity and that Islam is antithetical to liberal democratic values. I show that while some reject the use of “moderate” in Islamophobic discourses, others position themselves as moderate and progressive Muslims using particular religious interpretations and practices (especially those emphasizing gender egalitarianism and LGBT inclusion), as well as civic engagement, public events, and other forms of political action. My analysis also pays attention to the spatial dimension of Muslim New Yorkers’ senses of self, first in relation to ongoing surveillance by the NYPD, and secondly, in relation to the World Trade Center. Using examples such as the highly controversial "Ground Zero Mosque," it shows how Muslim subjectivities are embodied and spatialized through affective relationships with certain places.

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