Misrecognised as Muslim: the racialisation of Christians of Middle Eastern heritage in the UK

Alistair P. Hunter, Fiona McCallum Guiney*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Since the early 2000s in many countries of the Global North, Muslim religious identities have become racialised through the global ‘war on terror’, the ascendancy of right-wing populists, and localised but high-profile disturbances in disadvantaged urban areas. The racialisation of religion, which conflates concerns about the religious Other with race and ethnicity, has led to an environment where those from non-white ethnic backgrounds are mistakenly presumed to be Muslim. The present study contributes to the emergent literature on misrecognition as Muslim by exploring a novel case study, Middle Eastern Christians in the UK. Findings are based on qualitative research with Coptic, Iraqi and Assyrian Christian communities in London and central Scotland, involving 50 semi-structured interviews and six focus groups with members of the case study communities. In our analysis, we present Middle Eastern Christians’ everyday experiences of misrecognition based upon inferences about physical appearance and misconceptions about the Middle East. We identify three main types of response by those who are misrecognised, namely education, resignation, and differentiation. We argue that all three responses are problematic, insofar as they risk reifying group identities by putting moral pressure on members to conform to a unitary fixed view of the group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4014-4032
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number15
Early online date3 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023


  • Misrecognition
  • Racialisation
  • Muslims
  • Middle East Christians


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