A central argument in Hurd’s (2015) Beyond Religious Freedom is that the religious freedom policy framework pursued by the United States not only entrenches lines of division between religious faiths, but also is constructive of those very divisions. Where foreign and domestic policies purport to promote tolerance and respectful pluralism in the name of religious freedom, Hurd (2015, 41) contends they instead create ‘new forms of social friction defined by religious difference.’ Utilizing Hurd’s (2015) categories of Official, Governed, and Lived religion I examine Islamophobia and the racialization of Muslims in the United States and demonstrate how over-identification with religious groups can exacerbate social tensions; how the ‘agenda of surveillance’ (Hurd 2015) disproportionately targets Muslims in the United States; and argue that recourse to law and policy alone in response to anti-Muslim discrimination is unlikely to transform social attitudes towards Muslims. Finally, I utilize a contemporary reworking of Adam Smith’s sympathetic imagination and radical democratic theory to propose an alternative pathway towards dissolving the pejorative ascription of difference to religiously othered individuals.


Islam, Muslim, religious freedom, United States