Book Talk: Innocent Until Proven Muslim: Islamophobia, The War On Terror, And The Muslim Experience Since 9/11 By Dr. Maha Hilal | Moderated by Dr. Mohammed Abu-Nimer

The International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) hosted Dr. Maha Hilal, founding Executive Director of the Muslim Counterpublics Lab, for a book talk on Wednesday, August 10, 2022. Dr. Hilal gave a presentation on her book, Innocent Until Proven Muslim: Islamophobia, the War on Terror and the Muslim Experience Since 9/11. The webinar was moderated by Prof. Mohammed Abu-Nimer of American University. Participants attended the virtual talk from all over the world, such as Algeria, South Africa, Nigeria, Italy, Malaysia, Jordan, Thailand, Kashmir, and the United States.

Dr. Hilal described the War on Terror as a vast apparatus which did not just involve militarism overseas but also deployed domestic counterterrorism policies, enabling the surveillance and otherizing of Muslims in America. She emphasized the institutionalized Islamophobia which is deeply entrenched in the War on Terror and the weaponized narratives that depict Muslims as inherently angry and irredeemable. Dr. Hilal also highlighted the resulting internalized Islamophobia whereby Muslims uncritically accept dominant tropes and advocate for certain interventions that address Muslims’ “problematic” issues.

The talk was followed by an engaging Question and Answer session facilitated by Prof. Abu-Nimer. The recent tragic killings of Shi’a men in Albuquerque, New Mexico, were underscored to show the internalization of oppressive and divisive systems and the need to rise above sectarian differences and unite. Further, Dr. Hilal called out both Western Islamophobia which seeks to amplify internal frictions in the Muslim world along with Muslim countries’ use of Islamophobic language invoking terrorism to keep people in line.

To view a recording of the webinar, please click here.

Maha Hilal flyer


Dr. Maha Hilal is an expert on institutionalized Islamophobia and has spent her career researching, writing on, and advocating and organizing against it. She is cofounder of Justice for Muslims Collective. Dr. Hilal holds a PhD in Justice, Law, and Society from American University and has received many awards, including the Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship, the Kathryn Davis Fellowship for Peace, and a Reebok Human Rights Fellowship. Her writings have been published in Al JazeeraThe Daily BeastVox, and US News, among others.

maha hilal


Mohammed Abu-Nimer, of the International Peace and Conflict Resolution program, is a full professor at American University in Washington, D.C., who has conducted interreligious conflict resolution training and interfaith dialogue workshops in conflict areas around the world, includnig Egypt, Northern Ireland, the Philippines (Mindanao), Israel, Palestine, Chad, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka. As a professor with over 35 years of teaching experience, he has developed numerous courses that deal with different facets of peacebuilding and conflict resolution and regularly publishes on the subject. While his research has focused on a wide array of areas in peacebuilding and conflict resolution, his most recent areas of focus have included faith-based peacebuilding, interfaith dialogue in peacebuilding and building social cohesion, along with pedagogical considerations on incorporating peace and forgiveness education in the Arab world and Muslim world. He also served as a Senior Advisor to the KAICIID Dialogue Centre, an international organization that specialized in interreligious and intercultural dialogue. Abu-Nimer has been both author and an editor of more than 13 books on faith-based and interfaith peacebuilding (e.g. Nonviolence and Peacebuilding in Islamic Context: Bridging Ideals and Reality (2003); Evaluating Interreligious Peacebuilding (2021); Peace-Building By, Between and Beyond Muslims and Evangelical Christians (2009)), as well as interfaith dialogue and its role in peacebuilding and reconciliation (e.g. Unity in Diversity: Interfaith Dialogue in the Middle East (2007)).  In addition, he has authored numerous articles in refereed journals, such as the International Review of Education, Journal of International and Comparative EducationJournal of Religious EthicsPeace and Change: A Journal of Peace Research and the International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society’. In addition to his articles and publications, Dr. Abu-Nimer is the co-founder and co-editor of the Journal of Peacebuilding and Development.

Mohammed Abu-Nimer