Property lawfare: Historical racism and present Islamophobia in Anti-Mosque activism Book Chapter

Choudhury, CA. (2020). Property lawfare: Historical racism and present Islamophobia in Anti-Mosque activism . 213-229. 10.1017/9781108380768.016

cited authors

  • Choudhury, CA



  • This chapter concerns itself with the use of the law, legal institutions, and processes in anti-mosque activism and litigation to advance a social and political agenda that seeks to marginalize, if not expel, Islam and Muslims from mainstream America. It argues that even though anti-mosque activists who seek redress in courts most often lose, they "win by losing" - a phenomenon well theorized by law and social movement scholars.2 In other words, the strategy of litigating a narrow legal issue is not so much about winning the lawsuit, but about using the courts to introduce social and political claims that further an Islamophobic agenda. Regardless of the legal outcome, anti-Muslim groups achieve significant results: their use of the law results in political consolidation of the anti-mosque movement, it keeps alive questions about Islam and Muslims' ability to "belong" in the United States, it demonstrates the willingness to fight for a dominant racial ordering that excludes minorities from some neighborhoods, and it forces the internalization of both social and material costs by Muslim communities that go well beyond the costs of litigation. As critical race scholars and critical theorists have long argued, law itself is a political and indeterminate instrument. In the introduction to this volume, we assert that the "law is a central, if not the most central, participant in the broader project of Islamophobia."3Khaled Beydoun theorizes that from a legal perspective, Islamophobia can be understood as three intersecting dimensions: private, structural, and dialectical.4 This chapter demonstrates this very intersectionality as it appears in anti-mosque activism. It analyzes how the private Islamophobia of community members can become galvanized into community action and, through the use of the structures of the state (zoning commissions and courts), reinforce dialectical Islamophobia, signaling that Muslims must explain, apologize, and justify their actions even when those actions would be entirely uncontroversial for other groups.

publication date

  • August 13, 2020

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

start page

  • 213

end page

  • 229