Islam and the White House

American Presidential Discourse on Establishing Official Islam, 1993–2013

In: Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication
Ahmed H. al-Rahim University of Virginia

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A reified Islam has been used to delineate the creed, the politics and the culture of about a fifth of the world population. While defining what ‘Islam’ is and is not, before and after the events of September 11, may be a necessary first step to understanding certain ‘facts’ about the theology, law and history of the world’s second largest religion, the semantics of official US government discourse about ‘Islam’ and terrorism have proved to be problematic. The purpose of this article is to provide an analytical survey of the thematics of American presidential public diplomacy. It also analyzes the construction of ideology in the context of the global war on terror, as it relates to Islam as a religion, the variants of political Islam and more broadly on the question of terrorism and the ‘Muslim world’. I begin with the Clinton presidency and continue to George Bush and end with Obama’s first term. This period of American political and public diplomatic history was selected because it clearly illustrates American presidential rhetoric on ‘Islam’ before and after al-Qaʿida’s second attacks on the World Trade Center and before the events of the ‘Arab Spring’ in late 2010.

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