Five Questions on Islamophobia in Gaza Report

March 13, 2024

In Episode 12 of “Unpacking Islamophobia,” our guests for the March 2024 episode are Professor Sahar Aziz and Mitchell Plitnick who are co-authors of a November 2023 Rutgers University report from the Center for Security, Race and Rights called “Presumptively Antisemitic: Islamophobic Tropes in the Palestine-Israel Discourse,” which examines how anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia have been used to silence criticism of the Israeli government.

Professor Aziz began the interview by stating that, “The report’s intention was to ensure that Muslims- whether they were Arab, whether they were South Asians, or any ethnic/racial background- could engage on the Palestine -Israel issue without being accused of being anti -Semitic, without being marginalized, without being silenced, and without being denied the fundamental American right to engage in free speech.”

Her co-author Mitchell Plitnick continued the conversation by analyzing the official censure of Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) by the Republican-majority Congress for only the sixth time in history (while 3 out of 5 other censures involving members of the Confederacy). He further discussed the “radicalized double standard” against Muslims and Arabs in American political discourse when it comes to discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Professor Aziz further talks about a “zero-sum game” where she believes Muslim and Jewish people are often politically pitted against one another in what she called a “phenomena of the racialization of religion to perpetuate racism” similar to anti-Catholic racism in America at the turn of the 20th century. The co-authors conclude the episode by sharing their visions on centering critical perspectives of minority communities and individuals who are disadvantaged within the majoritarian Western global system that privileges some groups and harms other groups based on race, religion or socioeconomic status.




Sahar Aziz is Distinguished Professor of Law and Middle East Studies at Rutgers University. Her scholarship examines the intersection of national security, race, religion, and civil rights with a focus on the adverse impact of national security laws and policies on racial, religious, and ethnic minorities.  She is the author of the book The Racial Muslim: When Racism Quashes Religious Freedom and the founding director of the Center for Security, Race and Rights. Professor Aziz is a recipient of the Derrick A. Bell Award from the Association of American Law Schools and was named a Middle Eastern and North African American National Security and Foreign Policy Next Generation Leader by New America in 2020 and a Soros Equality Fellow in 2021.

Mitchell Plitnick is the president of ReThinking Foreign Policy and a frequent writer on the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy. He is the former vice president at the Foundation for Middle East Peace, director of the U.S. Office of B’Tselem, and co-director of Jewish Voice for Peace. The co-author (with Marc Lamont Hill) of Except for Palestine(The New Press), he lives in Maryland.

Arsalan Iftikhar is Senior Researcher for the Bridge Initiative at the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington DC. Arsalan is a prominent human rights lawyer, an internationally recognized researcher on the topic of Islamophobia, and a global media commentator. He is the author of several books including FEAR OF A MUSLIM PLANET: Global Islamophobia in the New World Order and Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms which President Jimmy Carter called “an important book that shows Islamophobia must be addressed urgently”. Throughout his career, Arsalan has been a regular on-air commentator for National Public Radio (NPR) and his interviews have appeared on prominent global media outlets like CNN, Al-Jazeera English, BBC World News, The Economist, New York Times, Rolling Stone, NBC News “Meet The Press” & many more. A native of Chicago, Arsalan was awarded the 2013 Distinguished Young Alumni Award from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, where he received both his undergraduate and law degrees.