Framing Islam as a Threat: The Use of Islam by Some U.S. Conservatives as a Platform for Cultural Politics in the Decade after 9/11
Belt, David Douglas
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Why, in the aftermath of 9/11, did a segment of U.S. security experts, political elite, media and other institutions classify not just al-Qaeda but the entire religion of Islam as a security threat, thereby countering the prevailing professional consensus and White House policy that maintained a distinction between terrorism and Islam? Why did this oppositional threat narrative on Islam expand and even degenerate into warning about the �[BULLET]Islamization�[BULLET] of America by its tiny population of Muslim-Americans�"a perceived threat sufficiently convincing that legislators in two dozen states introduced bills to prevent the spread of Islamic law, or sharia, and a Republican Presidential front-runner exclaimed, �[BULLET]I believe Shariah is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it�[BULLET]? This dissertation takes these puzzles as its object of inquiry. Using a framework that conceptualizes discourses and their agents as fundamentally political, this study deepens the literature�[BULLET]s characterizations of this discourse as �[BULLET]Islamophobia,�[BULLET] the �[BULLET]new Orientalism,�[BULLET] the �[BULLET]new McCarthyism,�[BULLET] and so on by examining how it functioned politically as a form of cultural politics, and how such political factors played a role in its expansion in the decade after 9/11. The approach is syncretic, blending Foucauldian genealogy with its emphasis on power, a more interpretive Bourdieuan relational sociology, and synthetic social movement theory. First, it examines the discourse at its macro-level, in the historical and structural factors that formed its conditions of emergence; specifically: 1) the culturally-resident political framing structure that rendered this discourse meaningful and credible; 2) the politically-relevant social-structural resources that rendered it influential; and 3) the more historically contingent or eventful political openings or opportunity �[BULLET]structure�[BULLET] that otherwise enabled, supported, or incentivized it. Then, it examines this threat discourse at its micro-level, biographically profiling three of its more influential polemicists, analyzing their strategies of cultural politics. The study concludes that this threat discourse functioned as a distinctive strategy by the more entrepreneurial segments of the U.S. conservative movement, who�"in the emotion-laden wake of 9/11�"seized Islam as another opportune site to advance their ongoing project of cultural politics.
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