Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, United States Muslims have been increasingly targeted as “others,” accused of holding dual-loyalties, and seen as potentially subversive. Nevertheless, Muslim American interest groups have not recoiled from foreign policy engagement. I argue that this is because mobilizing around symbolic foreign policy issues provides them with an opportunity to access the policy dialogue as a minority group making rights claims. To illustrate this argument, I conduct a discourse analysis of Muslim American policy engagement toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I rely on primary documents produced by the Council on American Islamic Relations and the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the two leading United States Muslims organizations, as well as interviews conducted with institutional elites. I find that, through their policy advocacy, these organizations are framing their demands around United States interests and minority group rights, while positioning themselves as the legitimate representatives of the Muslim American community.
One of the most important issues to us is, of course, the Palestinian Israeli issue because this is central to what America is in the Middle East and the Muslim world.
All I want from you, Mr. Policymaker is [for you] to listen to the other side of the story. I have a narrative that you didn't have a chance to hear, so let me give it to you and as-salamu alaykum [peace be upon you].
—Dr. Maher Hathout