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an Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) sent educational materials to the Ports-
mouth police department to help them in teaching their officers about Arab and Muslim
culture (ADC 1996).
Versions of this story, where gendered performances cause Muslim women and men
to become vulnerable to discrimination and unjustified harassment, have taken place
againandagainintheUnitedStates.Thesestoriesshow,insometimes horrifyingdetail,
howso-calledIslamophobiacloselyconnectswithgenderandspace. 1 While Islamopho-
bia is generally defined as xenophobic fear, bigotry, hatred, and discrimination directed
toward Islam and Muslims, Islamophobia as it occurs in the United States, directly af-
fects a wide range of groups because of race. Moreover, the term Islamophobia centers
the religion of Islam as the site of discrimination, while race is often the primary reason
that Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian Americans are affected by discrimination. 2
Islamophobia, like other forms of political and social power, interacts with different
types of space in complex ways. For these Virginia women, gendered discrimination
impacted them in typical, everyday space—on the sidewalk near a convenience store.
Public spaces often become contested sites where gender and Islamophobia interact.
Places such as streets and sidewalks, places of worship, shops, restaurants, and the like.
However,Islamophobicdiscoursesalsoinvadeprivateandsemiprivatespacesincluding
offices and private workplaces, the home, classrooms, and so on. Advocacy work that
attempts to confront Islamophobia, then, must also take account of differing gendered
vulnerabilitiesthesespaces.Thequestionthatanimatesthisresearchcentersontheways
in which political and social advocacy around Islamophobia is shaped by space.
Why is it that the advocacy organizations took up the case of the two women in Vir-
ginia? The interpretation of the public arrest as an affront to civil rights required a sense
that public spaces should remain open to individuals and communities who express a
gendered Islam. The particular actions taken by the advocacy organizations—sending
educational materials for police training sessions and issuing an open letter to the po-
lice—fit into established patterns for civil rights advocacy for gendered discrimination
casesinpublicspaces.TheprivilegetoconfrontIslamophobiainthiswayisalsoshaped
by gendered processes of privilege. How (and whether) gendered issues become an act-
iveareaofengagementforadvocacyorganizationsisacentralquestionforthisresearch.
Whataboutadvocacycenteredonothergenderedissuesthatimpactprivatespaces,such
as domestic violence, sexual harassment, and workplace discrimination?
The conceptualization of physical space by civil rights advocates can play an import-
ant role in deciding what types of issues to confront, and which issues remain unchal-
lenged. Indeed, the political, social, and legal application of civil rights is highly de-
pendent upon the organization and articulation of physical space (Delaney 1998). The
general focus of mainstream civil rights advocacy is on rights that are most visible in
 
 
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