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Internalized Islamophobia: The Discursive Construction of “Islam” and “Observant Muslims” in the Egyptian Public Discourse

  • Author(s): El Zahed, Sahar Youssef
  • Advisor(s): Abou El Fadl, Khaled M
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation examines the way “Islam” and “observant Muslims” are represented in the Egyptian public discourse from 30 June 2012—which marks the arrival of President Mohammad Morsi, the first democratically elected president in Egypt, to power—to 30 June 2018, which marks the end of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s first four-year presidential term. Through a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), 24 different episodes of some of the most widely watched late-night TV shows, and 2 official speeches were examined for a better understanding of how the Islamic faith is portrayed in a country with a Muslim majority such as Egypt. Results indicated that since President Morsi’s ascent to power, postcolonial self-acclaimed secular “liberals” and the ruling class have constructed an Islamophobic rhetoric derived from the Western Orientalist discourse through four specific representational practices: 1) establishing “Islam” as inherently problematic, violent, static, and incompatible with modernity and democracy; 2) creating a link between terrorism and the Islamic faith by claiming that violence is a religious obligation that has an essential place in Islam; 3) representing the “war on terrorism” as part of a struggle that seeks to defend Egypt and its values against “Islam” and “observant Muslims”; and 4) creating an image of “Egyptian-ness” dominated by Western perceptions of modernity. This hegemonic narrative seeks not only to justify the military coup d’�tat of 3 July 2013, but also to exclude “Islam” and “observant Muslims” from Egyptian society by creating fear of the religion and attaching narrow and negative connotations to the words “Islam” and “observant Muslims” that are signifiers for an undeterminable and diverse array of notions in existing manifestations of societies and individuals.

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