67 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2022

See all articles by Cyra Akila Choudhury

Cyra Akila Choudhury

Florida International University College of Law; Leiden University Center for Law and Digital Technologies

Date Written: January 6, 2022


Can a religion, over time and through its social and legal resignification, come to be a race? This chapter posits that in the context of North America and Europe, Islam has become a race and Islamophobia a species of racism. This construction is not dependent on an individual’s underlying, existing racial, ethnic, or religious identity but has become part of the larger assemblage of Islam-as-race. As such, I propose “Islam-as-race.” Drawing on the theoretical arguments and insights of Critical Race Theory, the central and novel claim of this paper is that if we accept that races are socially constructed and mutable, then it follows that races come in to being, existing ones change over time, and some may even change so much as to disappear from their original form. The article argues that Islam is no longer merely a religion but now has all the markers of race and Islamophobia is a form of racism. As such, we should treat it in the way that we treat other categories or race and not just as "radicalized." To demonstrate this evolution of Islam into a race, the paper first offers a genealogy of Islam-as-race in Part I. In Part II, it explores the common underpinnings and strategies to discriminate against Muslims that are shared with racisms against other groups. Using Critical Discourse Studies, the article shows how Islamophobia and anti-Blackness have many commonalities particularly in the constructions of the anti-sharia panics that anticipated the anti-CRT panic. Finally, in Part IV, the article turns to the material effects of Islamophobia as racism to show how these too are common.

Keywords: race, Islam, discrimination, critical race theory, Islamophobia

Suggested Citation

Choudhury, Cyra Akila, Islam-as-Race (January 6, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Cyra Akila Choudhury (Contact Author)

Florida International University College of Law ( email )

11200 SW 8th St.
RDB Hall 1097
Miami, FL 33199
United States

Leiden University Center for Law and Digital Technologies ( email )

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