This essay focuses on two cases in which Muslim youth were murdered yet law enforcement refused to classify the murders as hate crimes. It examines the 2015 murders of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and the 2017 murder of Nabra Hassanen in Reston, Virginia. This author argues that the denial of these cases as hate crimes contributes to the diminishment of anti-Muslim racism and should be understood as a form of racial gaslighting—a systematic denial of the persistence and severity of racism. In conversation with those advocating for rethinking the criminal justice system through prison abolition and restorative justice, it posits that seeking state recognition for hate crimes cannot provide justice given that the state is responsible for constructing Muslims as a national security threat. It explores how anti-Muslim racism is upheld through extremely narrow and problematic definitions of racism and hate crimes, through an approach to hate crimes that prioritizes punishment over civil rights, and through creating a dilemma for Muslim communities who must seek recognition of anti-Muslim racism from the same state that enacts surveillance and violence on them.

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