Date on Senior Honors Thesis


Document Type

Senior Honors Thesis

Degree Name

B.A., B.S.



Degree Program

College of Arts and Sciences

Author's Keywords

Islamophobia; Patriot Act; presidential rhetoric; hate crimes; clash of civilizations


Following the tragic terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, local and national leaders responded to the security crisis by uniting the country under the American ideals of freedom and democracy while condemning the Islamic terrorist group responsible. With beliefs rooted in historical American and European prejudice, Western scholarship promoted a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West wherein the cultures’ supposed irreconcilable differences would inevitably lead to warfare. Simultaneously, many Americans grew suspicious of Muslims after the attacks, including government officials. As hate crimes against Muslim and Middle Eastern Americans soared in the U.S., government leaders used positive rhetoric to discourage violence and further unite the country’s citizens. At the same time, however, these leaders implemented discriminatory policy and law enforcement practices like the U.S. Patriot Act that disproportionately targeted Muslim immigrants and citizens from Muslim-majority countries in the name of counterterrorism. These Islamophobic sentiments and policies have only continued to grow under the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations, with hate crimes and anti-Muslim sentiment once again skyrocketing in 2016. This powerful disconnect between governmental rhetoric and policy has allowed for decades-long discrimination against Muslim and Middle Eastern citizens to continue to this day.

Lay Summary

This thesis explores the contradiction within the American government between rhetoric and policy regarding Muslim and Middle Eastern communities as well as people perceived to be a member of either group. After the tragic terrorist attacks on 9/11, Islamophobic hate crimes soared across the U.S. To discourage this trend, Presidents Bush and Obama as well as local leaders like Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg established positive, inclusive rhetoric about the religion of Islam. However, these same leaders instituted or oversaw discriminatory policy that specifically targeted the Muslim and Middle Eastern community for surveillance, tracking, and detention. With recent instability in the Middle East and renewed suspicion of Islam and its relation to terrorism, President Trump established cohesive and Islamophobic rhetoric and policy which continues to influence public opinion and widespread discrimination against Muslim people in the United States.