Christopher Bail: Terrified: How Anti-Muslim Fringe Organizations Became Mainstream. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015. 223 pp. $35.00, hardcover.
This work presents a fascinating exploration of the rising influence of anti-Muslim fringe organizations in the United States after September 11, 2001. One might naturally assume that these organizations gained influence after 9/11 by exploiting a wave of grassroots anti-Muslim sentiment prompted by the 9/11 attackers’ self-identification as Muslims. But Bail’s account begins with surprising evidence that American attitudes about Muslims actually became more positive in the attack’s immediate wake. His study suggests fringe groups influenced the popular understanding of Islam through a decade-long campaign in which these groups strategically reconstituted their cultural environment by successively solidifying their influence in the media, the field of civil society organizations, and the state. With this provocative case, Bail sheds light on the mechanisms of cultural evolution in the wake of major crises.
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