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Abstract

The increase in Muslims entering Western nations in the last few years has sparked a rise in Islamophobia as well as controversy about the role of secularism in the modern nation-state when it is used to justify prejudice and discrimination against Muslims. Most of the literature on Islamophobia focuses on Western Europe. This study examines the relationship between Islamophobia and secularism in the United States. The United States frames secularization as separation of church and state. Analyzing data from the 2011 Pluralism-Immigration-&-Civic-Integration survey that samples 2450 people 18 and older reveals that controlling for age and being Roman Catholic, the more one agrees in the separation of church and state, the more one disagrees that Islam is at odds with American values and culture. Similarly, multiple regression analysis reveals that controlling for age and being Roman Catholic, the more one agrees with the separation of church and state, the more comfortable one is with Muslim women covering their bodies and with a mosque being built near their home. While the multiple regression analysis showed that secular values makes one more comfortable around Muslim women, that does not necessarily match the experiences Muslim women have in the United States. Secularism in the United States is not as prominent as in Western Europe, however, a rethinking of whether the United States supports freedom from religion or freedom of religion, as well as the idea that Islam is incompatible with Western cultures needs to be revisited to prevent discrimination against Muslims.

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