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Muslim women meme-ing citizenship in the era of War on Terror militarism

Pages 334-340 | Received 06 Jun 2020, Accepted 16 Jun 2020, Published online: 06 Aug 2020


Facebook meme groups created by Muslim students at American universities are sites of intensive daily productivity, where members post memes they create, or share memes they find elsewhere, joking about the everyday lived experience of practicing Islam as part of a family, a community, and a society. Through the practice of making memes about Muslim piety, members of these groups articulate a form of cultural citizenship in Western liberal secular society through humor. Young Muslim women engaged in meme-making must contend with the intersections of gender and religion while making claims to American citizenship, doing the work of re-shaping belonging both in terms of American citizenship and in terms of Islamic practice and belief.


1 Haram Memes for Jannah Minded Teens, another meme page appearing around the same time, translates to “taboo memes for pious teens.”

2 AJ+ @ajplus, “Young Muslims Are Building Community Through a Facebook Group Dedicated to Muslim Memes,” June 12, 2018, 7:22 pm,

3 Aihwa Ong, “Cultural Citizenship as Subject-Making: Immigrants Negotiate Racial and Cultural Boundaries in the United States,” Cultural Anthropology 37, no. 5 (1996): 738, doi:10.1086/204560.

4 Aryn Baker, “What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan,” Time Magazine (August 2010): 16–22.

5 Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs 72, no. 3 (1993): 22–49, doi:10.2307/20045621.

6 See also Lila Abu-Lughod, Do Muslim Women Need Saving? (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013); Charles Hirschkind and Saba Mahmood, “Feminism, the Taliban, and the Politics of Counter-Insurgency,” Anthropological Quarterly 75, no. 2 (2002): 339–55, doi:10.1353/anq.2002.0031; Reina Lewis, Gendering Orientalism: Race, Femininity, and Representation (New York: Routledge, 1996) and Carol A. Stabile and Deepa Kumar, “Unveiling Imperialism: Media, Gender, and the War on Afghanistan,” Media, Culture & Society 27, no. 5 (2005): 765–82, doi:10.1177/0163443705055734.

7 Limor Shifman, “An Anatomy of a Youtube Meme,” New Media & Society 14, no. 2 (2011): 188, doi:10.1177/1461444811412160.

8 Ryan Frazer and Bronwyn Carlson, “Indigenous Memes and the Invention of a People,” Social Media + Society 3, no. 4 (2017): 3–4, doi:10.1177/2056305117738993.

9 Lisa Nakamura, “I Will Do Everything That Am Asked: Scambaiting, Digital Show-Space, and the Racial Violence of Social Media,” Journal of Visual Culture 13, no. 3 (2014): 270, doi:10.1177/1470412914546845.

10 See also Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1978) and Lewis, Gendering Orientalism.

11 Donya Alinejad, The Internet and Formations of Iranian American-ness: Next Generation Diaspora (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 121.

12 The addition of “colorized” to the caption is another trend in secular meme making called Fake History; the caption jokingly configures the meme as a historical artifact that has been recovered from an archive and is now in circulation, mimicking the practice of historiography in public discourse, and the colorization of historical photographs in digital media.

13 Facebook post by Fatima, “sent in ∼anonymously∼ ‘The Duality of the Modern Day Muslim, Colorized 2018’,” May 11, 2018,

14 This meme originated as a yearbook photo caption of then seventeen-year-old CA high school senior, Rafika Alami.

15 Facebook post by Inas Syed, “When You Came Prepared for Punish a Muslim Day,” April 9, 2018,

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