Sample Syllabus: Islamophobia

Course Description

Islamophobia refers to the fears of and prejudices toward Muslims and Islam. This survey course explores the historical roots and contemporary forms of Western anxieties toward Muslims and Islam by critically engaging the following questions: What are the theological, historical, political, and cultural forces that have given rise to perceptions of Islam as inherently violent, intolerant, misogynist, and backwards? How does Islamophobia differ from legitimate disagreements with specific Islamic beliefs and practices? How has the fear of Islam translated into concrete acts of exclusion, discrimination, and psychological and physical harm? What do negative perceptions of Muslims and Islam reveal about Western assumptions concerning religion and the religious ‘Other’?

Suggested Activities and Assignments

1. Response Papers or Reading Log: To facilitate in-class discussion, the professor can have students respond to question prompts for the assigned readings for each day. Alternatively, the professor can ask students to maintain a reading log in which the student summarizes the main argument of the reading and the evidence employed by the author. The reading log can also contain student responses to the argument in the text (i.e., does she agree or disagree with the author, and why?).

2. Analytical Essay on a Television Program: Since there are so many television shows that have featured Muslims (usually as the antagonists) in the post-9/11 era, the professor can ask students to watch an entire season of one of these programs and to write an analytical essay. I have students watch the first season of Homeland in my course and ask them to write an essay in which they make a case for whether Homeland promotes or subverts Islamophobia. I ask them to point to specific scenes and dialogue as evidence, and to make connections with concepts we have read about or discussed throughout the semester (this assignment usually comes late in the course). Another possible assignment for television programs would be to ask students to watch some episodes of a show that challenges Muslim stereotypes, such as the Canadian program Little Mosque on the Prairie. For other television programs that could work for this assignment, see Chapter 7 of The Fear of Islam.

3. Movie Review: Like television programs, a whole host of Hollywood movies feature Arabs and Muslims. The professor can ask students to write a movie review for a well-known Hollywood movie. In my class, I ask students to do this assignment for the Oscar-winning movie Argo (2012). The movie works well for this assignment because it also dramatizes an event that we discuss earlier in the semester – the Iranian revolution of 1978–1979. Students are asked to take a position on whether the movie promotes Islamophobia or, more generally, Orientalism. But again, there are many movies that would work for this assignment, not to mention the wonderful collections of movie reviews written by Jack Shaheen.

A variation of this assignment is to ask students to find a movie that combats Islamophobia and to write a review. The movie would need to offer a nuanced portrayal of Arabs or Muslims or to deal with themes such as violence and Islam in ways that complexify and problematize Western assumptions. The professor can also provide a list of candidate movies from which to choose, such as some of the movies discussed at the end of Chapter 7 in The Fear of Islam. Alternatively, students can write a review in which they compare and contrast one movie they deem Islamophobic and one that they believe is more nuanced in its portrayal of Arabs and Muslims.

4. Group Project: For a final project, the professor can have students give group presentations. Assign each group a topic in advance that pertains to one of the consequences of Islamophobia described in Chapter 8 of The Fear of Islam: NYPD or FBI surveillance of Muslim Americans, special registration programs for Muslim Americans, detentions and deportations, extraordinary renditions in Europe or the U.S., hijab or burqa controversies in Europe, mosque conflicts in either Europe or the U.S., etc.

5. Comparative Project: One of the questions that is really interesting to wrestle with in a course on Islamophobia is the degree to which Islamophobia overlaps with other prejudices toward religious minorities in Western history, such as anti-Semitism or anti-Catholicism. The professor can ask students to write essays in which they compare and contrast these prejudices. Readings on anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism can be incorporated into the course reading schedule or can be placed on reserve in the library.

6. Case Studies: The professor can develop case studies from contemporary events and use them to facilitate in-class discussion. Such case studies should involve events in which Muslims are in the center of a controversy and should ask students to analyze whether the criticisms made against Muslims in light of the controversy constitute Islamophobia or legitimate concerns. In my experience, simply keeping an eye on the news throughout the semester offers plenty of opportunities for creating and using case studies.

7. Social Media: Most scholars of Islamophobia recognize that social media is a game changer when it comes to how the fear of Islam is spread in the twenty-first century. To help students understand the power of this medium, the professor can ask students to follow a prominent anti-Islam activist on Twitter (Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, etc.) and keep track of the debates they engage in and the issues they raise on social media. Students can then present their observations and insights to the class on a regular basis.

Schedule of Course Readings/Topics

A Note on Readings

I have outlined below a possible course schedule that follows the general structure of The Fear of Islam. I have included suggested readings with each topic. Many of these readings are scholarly texts, but in a few cases, I have included primary texts/sources that are examples of Orientalist and/or Islamophobic writings (such as Martin Luther, On War Against the Turk; Ayaan Hirsi Ali, The Caged Virgin; Bernard Lewis, “The Roots of Muslim Rage”). I’ve separated the primary from secondary texts within each unit by an extra space. Additional examples of other primary texts, news stories, television programs, movies, and material that evidence Islamophobia can be found in each chapter of The Fear of Islam.


Suggested Readings:
Green, The Fear of Islam (Ch. 1)
Commission on British Muslims, Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All
N. Meer & T. Modood, “For ‘Jewish’ Read ‘Muslim’?”
A. Shryock, “Islam as an Object of Fear and Affection”
Love, Islamophobia and Racism in America (Chs. 1-2)


Suggested Readings:
Green, The Fear of Islam (Ch. 2)
J. Tolan, G. Veinstein, H. Laurens, Europe and the Islamic World (Chs. 2– 4, 6, 8, 11)
S. Arjana, Muslims in the Western Imagination (Ch. 2)
Heng, “The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages”

John of Damascus, On Heresies
Martin Luther, On War Against the Turk

R. Scott, Kingdom of Heaven


Suggested Readings:
Green, The Fear of Islam (Ch. 3)
E. Said, Orientalism (pp. 1–49)
S. Arjana, Muslims in the Western Imagination (Chs. 3–4)
Yeazell, Harems of the Mind (Ch.2)

B. Lewis, “The Roots of Muslim Rage”
S. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?”


Suggested Readings:
Green, The Fear of Islam (Ch. 4)
Abu-Lughod, Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? (Ch. 1)
J. Hammer, “Gendering Islamophobia”
K. Hunt, “‘Embedded Feminism’ and the War on Terror”
J. Cole, “Islamophobia and American Foreign Policy Rhetoric”
D. Kumar, Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire (Chs. 3, 4, 7)
S. Sheehi, Islamophobia (Ch. 6)
J. Esposito & D. Mogahed, Who Speaks for Islam? (Chs. 2–4)
George W. Bush, “Speech at the Islamic Center in Washington, DC”


Suggested Readings:
Green, The Fear of Islam (Ch. 5)
P. Weller, A Mirror for Our Times (Chs. 1,2)
I. Buruma, Murder in Amsterdam (Chs. 1, 2, 6)
J. Klausen, The Cartoons That Shook the World (Chs. 1–3)
D. Saunders, The Myth of the Muslim Tide

A. Hirsi Ali, The Caged Virgin (Ch. 12)

Van Gogh & Hirsi Ali, Submission


Suggested Readings:
Green, The Fear of Islam (Ch. 6)
N. Lean, The Islamophobia Industry (Chs. 2, 7)
C. Bail, Terrified (Ch. 3)
Green, “Who Speaks for Europe’s Muslims?”

A. Hirsi Ali, The Caged Virgin (Chs. 1-3, 16)

G. Wilders, Fitna


Suggested Readings:
Green, The Fear of Islam (Ch. 7)
N. Lean, The Islamophobia Industry (Ch. 3)
C. Bail, Terrified (Ch. 5)
E. Said, Covering Islam (Introduction, Ch. 1 – Part II)
E. Alsultany, Arabs and Muslims in the Media (Chs. 1, 3, 4)
K. Powell, “Framing Islam”
J. Shaheen, Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11 (Prologue)

Television Programs:

  1. Discussion of one season of one of the following prime-time dramas: 24, Sleeper CellHomeland, or Jack Ryan
  2. Discussion of how the Canadian show Little Mosque on the Prairie addresses and disrupts Muslim stereotypes

J. Shaheen, Reel Bad Arabs

Watch one or two movies that illustrate some of the issues raised in Reel Bad Arabs


Suggested Readings:
Green, The Fear of Islam (Ch. 8)
D. Kumar, Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire (Ch. 8)
A. Kundnani, The Muslims Are Coming! (Chs. 2, 4, 6)
K. Beydoun, American Islamophobia
J. Scott, The Politics of the Veil (Chs. 1, 2, 5)
E. Patel, Sacred Ground (pp. 3–40)
Green, “The Resistance to Minarets in Europe”

K. Davis & D. Heilbroner, The Newburgh Sting


Suggested Readings:
Green, The Fear of Islam (Ch. 9)
Love, Islamophobia and Racism (Ch. 117)

N. Farsad, D. Obeidallah, et. al, The Muslims Are Coming!


Abu-Lughod, Lila. Do Muslim Women Need Saving? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013.

Alsultany, Evelyn. Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11. New York: New York University Press, 2012.

Arjana, Sophia Rose. Muslims in the Western Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Bail, Christopher. Terrified: How Anti-Muslim Fringe Organizations Became Mainstream. Princeton: Princeton University press, 2014.

Bayoumi, Moustafa. This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror. New York: NYU Press, 2015.

Beydoun, Khaled. American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018.

Buruma, Ian. Murder in Amsterdam: Liberal Europe, Islam and the Limits of Tolerance. New York: Penguin Books, 2007.

Bush, George W. “Remarks by the President at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C.” The White House, September 17, 2001. Available online at

Cole, Juan. “Islamophobia and American Foreign Policy Rhetoric: The Bush Years and After.” In Islamophobia: The Challenge of Pluralism in the 21st Century, eds. John L. Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin, 127–42. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia. Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All. The Runnymede Trust, 1997.

Curtis, Edward E., ed. The Practice of Islam in America: An Introduction. New York: NYU Press, 2017.

Esposito, John L., and Dalia Mogahed. Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think. New York: Gallup, 2007.

Green, Todd H. The Fear of Islam: An Introduction to Islamophobia in the West. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015.

_____. “The Resistance to Minarets in Europe.” Journal of Church and State 52 (2010): 619–43.

_____. “Who Speaks for Europe’s Muslims? The Radical Right Obstacle to Dialogue.” CrossCurrents 62 (2012): 337–49.

Grewal, Zareena. Islam in a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority. New York: NYU Press, 2013.

Hammar, Juliane. “Gendering Islamophobia: (Muslim) Women’s Bodies and American Politics,” Bulletin for the Study of Religion 42 (2013): 29-36.

Heng, Geraldine. “The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages I.” Literature Compass 8 (2011): 315-331.

Hunt, Krista. “‘Embedded Feminism’ and the War on Terror.” In (En)gendering the War on Terror: War Stories and Camouflaged Politics, eds. Krista Hunt and Kim Rygiel, 51–71. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008.

Iftikhar, Arsalan. Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms. New York: Hot Books, 2016.

Iyer, Deepa. We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future. New York: The New Press, 2017.

Kazi, Nadia. Islamophobia, Race, and Global Politics. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019.

Klausen, Jytte. The Cartoons That Shook the World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.

Kumar, Deepa. Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012.

Kundnani, Arun. The Muslims Are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror. London: Verso, 2014.

Lean, Nathan. The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims. London: Pluto, 2017.

Love, Erik. Islamophobia and Racism in America. New York: NYU Press, 2017.

Mamdani, Mahmood. Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror. New York: Pantheon Books, 2004.

Meer, Nasar, and Tariq Modood. “For ‘Jewish’ Read ‘Muslim’? Islamophobia as a Form of Racialisation of Ethno-Religious Groups in Britain Today.” Islamophobia Studies Journal 1 (2012): 34–53.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary. New York: HarperOne, 2015.

Patel, Eboo. Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America. Boston: Beacon, 2012.

Powell, Kimberly A. “Framing Islam: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of Terrorism since 9/11.” Communication Studies 62 (2011): 90–112.

Power, Carla. If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran. New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2015.

Quinn, Frederick. The Sum of All Heresies: The Image of Islam in Western Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Ramadan, Tariq. Western Muslims and the Future of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Safi, Omid. Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters. New York: HarperOne, 2009.

Said, Edward W. Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World. New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

_____. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 1978.

Saunders, Doug. The Myth of the Muslim Tide: Do Immigrants Threaten the West? New York: Vintage, 2012.

Scott, Joan Wallach. The Politics of the Veil. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.

Shaheen, Jack G. Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11. Northampton, MA: Olive Branch, 2008.

Sheehi, Stephen. Islamophobia: The Ideological Campaign Against Muslims. Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2011.

Shryock, Andrew. “Islam as an Object of Fear and Affection.” In Islamophobia/Islamophilia: Beyond the Politics of Enemy and Friend, ed. Andrew Shryock, 1–25. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.

Sonn, Tamra. Is Islam an Enemy of the West? Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2016.

Tolan, John, Gilles Veinstein, and Henry Laurens. Europe and the Islamic World: A History. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013.

Weller, Paul. A Mirror for Our Times: ‘The Rushdie Affair’ and the Future of Multiculturalism. London: Continuum, 2009.

Yeazell, Ruth Bernard. Harems of the Mind: Passages of Western Art and Literature. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000.