General Anthropology Division
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Whether in the civilian world or the military, the start of the war in the Middle East in 2001 led to an increase in Islamophobic rhetoric in the US. Scholars on Islam have argued the ways stigmatization is naturalized through popular culture, government institutions, and racial and religious ideologies. Throughout my experience in the US Navy, I came to realize that Islamophobia is found to be quite common amongst service members and, in fact, sometimes encouraged. My goal in this paper is to understand the responses towards Muslims and Islam that US Marines develop through early life socialization, the acculturation process they experience in basic military training, and through direct contact with Muslim people overseas. My questions will be geared towards a deeper understanding of the social and structural processes of making an “ideal" soldier and the ways they shape a perceptive individual’s worldview in crucial time of identity formation. I will analyze the socialization and acculturation processes of US Marine Veterans and the ways their reintegration into the society further influences their responses towards Muslims and Islam. I will argue that out of the three influential stages of identity formation—early life socialization, basic military training, and direct contact with Muslim people overseas—training is the primary and most influential aspect of these ethnocentric world views. Therefore, Islamophobia in the military is not only a problem of individual bias but also a structural inequality issue that is deeply rooted in the history of western imperialism.