Being Muslim in Mississippi: An Exploratory Study of the Intersectionality of Religion, Race, Gender, and Nationality in the Lives of First Generation Bangladeshi Muslim Immigrants in Mississippi

Tahseen Shams, The University of Southern Mississippi


In this research, I studied what it is like to be a ‘problem’ in society—a marginalized minority (Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants) in Mississippi (a predominantly white Christian state) by interviewing twelve first generation Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants and participant observation. I sought to understand how these individuals live their daily lives with their stigma of being Muslim in a general sense of fear and dislike of Islam and Muslims. The main understanding I gained after doing the research is that being Bangladeshi Muslim immigrant in Mississippi is about being (managing impression) not just Muslim, but also other identities based on gender, race, and nationality. Every first generation Bangladeshi interviewee in this research is an intersection of various identities all of which are discreditable because of the stigma of being Muslim. Each interviewee’s unique intersection of identities influences the way they will manage their impression in society to avoid being discredited. Their marginalized and stigmatized statuses in the society create in them a double consciousness where they struggle to be accepted by Americans by underplaying their religious, racial, and ethnic identities on one hand, and holding on to their roots on the other by practicing Bengali language and certain Bangladeshi and Islamic traditions at home or within their small Bangladeshi and Muslim communities. The stigmas of first generation Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants in Mississippi reflect complex social inequalities that they often help reproduce in different ways.