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Racial control under the guise of terror threat: policing of US Muslim, Arab, and SWANA communities


Using an analysis of U.S. government policies that have had high impacts on the personal safety and freedom of movement and expression of Arabs, Muslims, and others of Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA) origins living in or seeking to migrate to the US, this article argues that these policies mirror in significant ways a range of policies used currently and historically to police and control Black and brown bodies. Specifically, the article addresses three tactics shared across such policies: pre-emption, containment, and collective responsibility, and demonstrates how they are manifested in specific anti-terrorism and national security policies aimed at Arabs, Muslims, and others of SWANA origins, including Operation Boulder, the War on Terror, Special Registration, Countering Violent Extremism, and the Muslim Ban. The article also examines the outcomes of these policies in terms of actual convictions on terrorism charges (i.e. identifying terrorists) and finds limited results. It concludes that the alleged Muslim/Arab/SWANA domestic terror threat is in large part a social construction of the state. Finally, it argues that while US anti-terror policies are examined by most scholars outside of the lens of race, there is little reason to view them as exceptions to people of colour policing regimes.

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