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Constructing Enemies: ‘Islamic Terrorism’ in Political and Academic Discourse

  • Richard Jackson


The term ‘Islamic terrorism’ has become a ubiquitous feature of Western political and academic counter-terrorism discourse in recent years. Examining over 300 political and academic texts and employing a discourse analytic approach, this article attempts to describe and dissect the central terms, assumptions, labels, narratives and genealogical roots of the language and knowledge of ‘Islamic terrorism’ and to reflect on its practical and normative consequences. It concludes that for the most part, political and academic discourses of ‘Islamic terrorism’ are unhelpful, not least because they are highly politicized, intellectually contestable, damaging to community relations and practically counter-productive.



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2 Carol Winkler, In the Name of Terrorism: Presidents on Political Violence in the Post-World War II Era, Albany, NY, State University of New York Press, 2006, pp. 11–16.

3 For an insightful discussion of discourse analytic approaches in international relations, see: Milliken, Jennifer, ‘The Study of Discourse in International Relations: A Critique of Research and Methods’, European Journal of International Relations, 5: 2 (1999), pp. 225–54. See also: Laffey, Mark and Weldes, Jutta, ‘Beyond Belief: Ideas and Symbolic Technologies in the Study of International Relations’, European Journal of International Relations, 3: 2 (1997), pp. 193237 ; Purvis, Trevor and Hunt, Alan, ‘Discourse, Ideology, Discourse, Ideology, Discourse, Ideology…’, British Journal of Sociology, 44: 3 (1993), pp. 473–99; and Yee, Albert, ‘The Causal Effects of Ideas on Politics’, International Organization, 50: 1 (1996), pp. 69108 .

4 These shared commitments are explored in detail in Milliken, ‘The Study of Discourse’.

5 For an excellent study on subject positioning and its political consequences, see Doty, Roxanne, ‘Foreign Policy as Social Construction: A Post-Positivist Analysis of U.S. Counterinsurgency Policy in the Philippines’, International Studies Quarterly, 37 (1993), pp. 297320.

6 See Laffey and Weldes, ‘Beyond Belief’.

7 For explanation of these techniques, see: Milliken, ‘The Study of Discourse’; and Doty, ‘Foreign Policy as Social Construction’, p. 306.

8 Doty, ‘Foreign Policy as Social Construction’, p. 302. See also: Weldes, Jutta, ‘Constructing National Interests’, European Journal of International Relations, 2: 3 (1996), p. 284.

9 Rapoport's article is probably the most cited academic text in the ‘religious terrorism’ sub-field. See Rapoport, David, ‘Fear and Trembling: Terrorism in Three Religious Traditions’, American Political Science Review, 78: 3 (1984), pp. 658–77.

10 Following David Rapoport's article, and containing all the central narratives of ‘Islamic terrorism’ discussed below, the most commonly cited and authoritative ‘religious terrorism’ texts include, among others: Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, New York, Columbia University Press, 1998; Walter Laqueur, The New Terrorism: Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction, New York, Oxford University Press, 1999; Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, Berkeley, CA, University of California Press, 2000; Jessica Stern, Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill, New York, HarperCollins, 2003; and Ranstorp, Magnus, ‘Terrorism in the Name of Religion’, Journal of International Affairs, 50: 1 (1996), pp. 4162.

11 For incisive accounts of the networks of influence linking terrorism scholars to government agencies, see: Burnett, Jonny and Whyte, Dave, ‘Embedded Expertise and the New Terrorism’, Journal for Crime, Conflict and the Media, 1: 4 (2005), pp. 118; Alexander George, ‘The Discipline of Terrorology’, in Alexander George (ed.), Western State Terrorism, Cambridge, Polity, 1991; and Edward Herman and Gerry O'Sullivan, The ‘Terrorism’ Industry, New York, Pantheon Books, 1990.

12 Orientalism is a system of knowledge based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction between the orient and the occident in which the orient is constructed largely as a negative inversion of Western culture, and which employs a series of biological and cultural generalizations and racial and religious prejudices, including depictions of ‘Arab’ cultures as irrational, violent, backward, anti-Western, savage, dishonest and the like. For detailed analysis of past and recent orientalist scholarship, see among others: Edward Said, Orientalism, London, Penguin, 1978, 2003; Edward Said, Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World, London, Vintage, 1981, revised edition 1997; Fred Halliday, Two Hours that Shook the World – September 11, 2001: Causes & Consequences, London, Saqi Books, 2002, pp. 88–131; and Yahya Sadowsky, ‘The New Orientalism and the Democracy Debate’, in Joel Beinin and Joe Stork (eds), Political Islam, Berkeley, CA, University of California Press, 1996.

13 Lewis, Bernard, ‘The Roots of Muslim Rage’, Atlantic Monthly, 266: 3 (1990), pp. 4760.

14 Huntington, Samuel, ‘The Clash of Civilizations?’, Foreign Affairs, 72: 3 (1993), pp. 2249.This article was widely distributed among US diplomatic officials and was highly influential in foreign policy discussions.

15 See Said, Covering Islam, p. 150; and AbuKhali, As'ad, ‘Book Review: “The Islam Industry” and Scholarship’, Middle East Journal, 58: 1 (2004), pp. 130–8.

16 There is a large and sophisticated literature examining media representations of Muslims. See, among others: Elizabeth Poole and John Richardson, Muslims and the News Media, London, I.B. Tauris, 2006; Kai Hafez (ed.), Islam and the West in the Mass Media: Fragmented Images in a Globalizing World, Cresskill, NJ, Hampton Press, 2000; John Richardson, (Mis)Representing Islam: The Racism and Rhetoric of British Broadsheet Newspapers, Amsterdam, John Benjamins, 2004; Jack Sheehan, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People, Northampton, MA, Interlink Publishing Group, 2004; and Reeva Simon, The Middle East in Crime Fiction: Mysteries, Spy Novels, and Thrillers from 1916 to the 1980s, New York, Lilian Barber Press, 1989.

17 See Hurd, Elizabeth, ‘Appropriating Islam: The Islamic Other in the Consolidation of Western Modernity’, Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies, 12: 1 (2003), pp. 2541.Hurd demonstrates that orientalist images of the ‘Muslim Other’ were widely diffused across American culture in the early twentieth century, establishing important cultural templates for later constructions of Muslim tyranny, rogue states and ‘Islamic terrorists’.

18 See Said, Orientalism.

19 See K. El Fadl (ed.), Shattered Illusions: Analyzing the War on Terrorism, Bristol, Amal Press, 2002.

20 For a discussion of these broader cultural-political narratives and the ways in which they are linked to the war on terrorism, see among others: Richard Jackson, Writing the War on Terrorism: Language, Politics and Counterterrorism, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2005; and Stuart Croft, Culture, Crisis and America's War on Terror, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006.

21 The 9/11 Commission, Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2004, p. 54, emphasis added.

22 Takeyh, Ray and Gvosdev, Nikolas, ‘Radical Islam: The Death of an Ideology?’, Middle East Policy, 11: 4 (2004), p. 86, emphasis added.

23 Tony Blair, ‘Address at the Labour Party Conference’, 2 October 2001, at, accessed 28 April, 2006.

24 The noted terrorism scholar, Marc Sageman, is emblematic of this point. As the following sections clearly demonstrate, Sageman articulates many of the dominant narratives while simultaneously furnishing much of the empirical evidence used to question accepted ‘knowledge’ of terrorism.

25 Barak Mendelsohn argues that while the doctrine and practice of ‘holy war’ has been discarded by Christianity historically, in Islam ‘Jihad as war against the “infidels” was never clearly rejected on a religious basis’; Mendelsohn, Barak, ‘Sovereignty Under Attack: The International Society Meets the Al Qaeda Network’, Review of International Studies, 31 (2005), p. 55.

26 Laqueur, The New Terrorism, p. 129, emphasis added.

27 Mendelsohn, ‘Sovereignty Under Attack’, p. 57, emphasis added.

28 Huntington, ‘A Clash of Civilizations?’, p. 35. Magnus Ranstorp similarly speaks about ‘the traditionally violent Middle East, where religion and terrorism share a long history.’ Ranstorp, ‘Terrorism in the Name of Religion’, p. 43.

29 Habib Malik, ‘Political Islam and the Roots of Violence’, in Elliott Abrams (ed.), The Influence of Faith: Religious Groups and U.S. Foreign Policy, Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield, 2001, author's emphasis.

30 Reuven Paz, ‘Is There an “Islamic Terrorism”?’, International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) Publication, Herzilya, Israel, 7 September 1998, available at, accessed 12 October, 2001, emphasis added.

31 Ranstorp, ‘Terrorism in the Name of Religion’, p. 58.

32 Reuven Paz, ‘Radical Islamist Terrorism: Points for Pondering’, International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) Publication, Herzilya, Israel, 20 June 2001, at, accessed 12 October, 2001.

33 Marc Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004, p. 1.

34 Ibid., p. 126, emphasis added.

35 See for example, Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror, New York, Random House, 2002; Paul Berman, Terror and Liberalism, New York, W.W. Norton, 2003; Natana DeLong-Bas, Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004; and Israeli, Raphael, ‘A Manual of Islamic Fundamentalist Terrorism’, Terrorism and Political Violence, 14: 4 (2002), pp. 2340.Extraordinarily, Israeli employs the term ‘Islamikaze’ to denote the ‘new brand of Muslim terrorists’ (p. 23) who employ suicidal, kamikaze attacks.

36 Wiktorowicz, Quintan, ‘A Genealogy of Radical Islam’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 28 (2005), p. 75, emphasis added.

37 Greg Austin, The Next Attack: ‘Know Your Enemy and Know Yourself’, London, Foreign Policy Centre, 2005, p. i.

38 Mishal, Shaul and Rosenthal, Maoz, ‘Al Qaeda as a Dune Organization: Towards a Typology of Islamic Terrorist Organizations’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 28 (2005), p. 277.

39 Cook, David, ‘The Recovery of Radical Islam in the Wake of the Defeat of the Taliban’, Terrorism and Political Violence, 15: 1 (2003), p. 52.

40 Ranstorp, ‘Terrorism in the Name of Religion’, p. 49, emphasis added.

41 Benjamin Barber, ‘Democracy and Terror in the Era of Jihad vs. McWorld’, in Ken Booth and Tim Dunne (eds), Worlds in Collision: Terror and the Future of Global Order, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2002, p. 247, emphasis added.

42 Schbley, Ayla, ‘Religious Terrorism, the Media, and International Islamization Terrorism: Justifying the Unjustifiable’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 27 (2004), p. 208.

43 Takeyh and Gvosdev, ‘Radical Islam’, p. 93, emphasis added.

44 Lewis, ‘The Roots of Muslim Rage’, emphasis added. Francis Fukuyama similarly suggests that ‘the hatred is born out of a resentment of western success and Muslim failure’. He also maintains that ‘there does seem to be something about Islam, or at least the fundamentalist versions of Islam that have been dominant in recent years, that makes Muslim societies particularly resistant to modernity’; Francis Fukuyama, ‘The West Has Won’, Guardian, 11 October 2001.

45 Stern, Terror in the Name of God, p. 264.

46 Mishal and Rosenthal, ‘Al Qaeda as a Dune Organization’, p. 276. Barak Mendelsohn goes even further, suggesting that ‘the challenge that Al Qaeda represents is putting the survival of the system under risk’. Mendelsohn, ‘Sovereignty under Attack’, p. 45, emphasis added.

47 Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks, p. vii, emphasis added.

48 Pipes, Daniel, ‘Who is the Enemy?’, Commentary, 113: 1 (January 2002), pp. 23–4, 26, available at:, accessed 27 June 2006.

49 The narrative of al-Qaeda's role in funding, arming, guiding and coordinating ‘local jihads’ into a ‘global jihad’ against the West is described in detail in Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks, pp. 25–59.

50 Stern, Terror in the Name of God, p. 260.

51 Gus Martin, Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues, London, Sage, 2003, pp. 194, 198.

52 Rohan Gunaratna, Inside Al Qaeda, New York, Columbia University Press, 2002, pp. 8, 95. It should be noted that a great many different figures are quoted by ‘Islamic terrorism’ authors, but all of them refer to at least 4,000 or more well-trained ‘militants’, ‘al-Qaeda members’, ‘jihadists’, etc.

53 A few of the numerous ‘new terrorism’ texts include: Hoffman, Inside Terrorism; Laqueur, The New Terrorism; Ian Lesser et al., Countering the New Terrorism, Santa Monica, CA, Rand Corporation Publications, 1999; Charles Kegley, Jr. (ed.), The New Global Terrorism: Characteristics, Causes, Controls, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 2003; and Russell Howard and Reid Slayer (eds), Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Understanding the New Security Environment, Guildford, McGraw-Hill, 2003.

54 Ranstorp, ‘Terrorism in the Name of Religion’, p. 54, emphasis added.

55 Stern, Terror in the Name of God, p. xxii, emphasis added. See also, Mendelsohn, ‘Sovereignty Under Attack’, p. 65; and Bruce Hoffman, ‘Terrorism Trends and Prospects’, in Lesser et al., Countering the New Terrorism, p. 17.

56 Byman, Daniel, ‘Al-Qaeda as an Adversary: Do We Understand Our Enemy?’, World Politics, 56 (2003), p. 147, emphasis added.

57 Barber, ‘Democracy and Terror’, p. 246, emphasis added.

58 Tony Blair, ‘PM's Press Conference’, 5 August 2005, at, accessed 28 April 2006.

59 John Arquilla, David Ronfeldt and Michele Zanini, ‘Networks, Netwar, and Information-Age Terrorism’, in Lesser et al., Countering the New Terrorism, p. 56, emphasis added.

60 Frank Gregory and Paul Wilkinson, ‘Riding Pillion for Tackling Terrorism is a High-Risk Policy’, Security, Terrorism and the UK, Chatham House ISP/NSC Briefing Paper 05/01, July 2005, p. 2.

61 Ibid., p. 65.

62 Barber, ‘Democracy and Terror’, p. 249.

63 Byman, ‘Al-Qaeda as an Adversary’, p. 151, emphasis added.

64 Pillar, Paul, ‘Terrorism Goes Global: Extremist Groups Extend their Reach Worldwide’, Brookings Review, 19: 4 (2001), p. 36.

65 Austin, ‘The Next Attack’, p. 28.

66 Baran, Zeyno, ‘Fighting the War of Ideas’, Foreign Affairs, 84: 6 (2005), p. 84, emphasis added. See also, Husain Haqqani, ‘Islam's Weakened Moderates’, Foreign Policy, 137 (2003), pp. 61–3.

67 NS interview, Patricia Hewitt, Newstatesman, 25 July 2005, p. 26.

68 This narrative is prominent in the British government's ‘Draft Report on Young Muslims and Extremism’, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Home Office, April 2004, available at, accessed 27 June 2006.

69 See Jordan, Javier and Box, Luisa, ‘Al-Qaeda and Western Islam’, Terrorism and Political Violence, 16: 1 (2004), pp. 117.Their assessment is that ‘by working among ordinary European and North American Muslims, Al-Qaeda has gained strategic depth at the very heart of Western Communities’ (p. 4). See also Robert Leiken, ‘Europe's Angry Muslims’, Foreign Affairs, 84: 4 (2005), pp. 120–7.

70 This narrative is expressed in Haqqani, Husain, ‘Islam's Medieval Outposts’, Foreign Policy, 133 (2002), pp. 5864.

71 In one of the most cited texts on religious terrorism, Mark Juergensmeyer states that ‘the young bachelor self-martyrs in the Hamas movement … expect that the blasts that kill them will propel them to a bed in heaven where the most delicious acts of sexual consummation will be theirs for the taking’, Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God, p. 201. In fact, a surprising number of ‘Islamic terrorism’ texts, in discussing the Islamic tradition of martyrdom, mention the ‘seventy black-eyed virgins’ in paradise, with its implicit promise of sexual fulfilment, as being a primary motive for suicide bombings. See Wiktorowicz, ‘A Genealogy of Radical Islam’, p. 93.

72 See Esposito, John, ‘Political Islam: Beyond the Green Menace’, Current History, 93: 579 (1994), pp. 1924.

73 This point is powerfully made in Denoeux, Guilain, ‘The Forgotten Swamp: Navigating Political Islam’, Middle East Policy, 9: 2 (2002), pp. 5681.Denoeux argues that the term ‘fundamentalism’ is particularly misleading when applied to Islam because the word has connotations derived from its origins in early twentieth-century American Protestantism. See also Zaheer Kazmi, ‘Discipline and Power: Interpreting Global Islam: A Review Essay’, Review of International Studies, 30 (2004), pp. 245–54; and M. E. Yapp, ‘Islam and Islamism’, Middle Eastern Studies, 40: 2 (2004), pp. 161–82.

74 See Ismail, Rethinking Islamist Politics: Culture, the State and Islamism, London, I.B. Tauris, 2006.

75 Jason Burke, Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam, London, Penguin, 2003, p. 24.

76 See Ismail, Rethinking Islamist Politics.

77 It is as true for Islam as it is for Christianity that ‘the fundamentalist emphasis on personal purity often takes an individual rather than a collective and political expression’– that greater religious devotion more often leads to political withdrawal than to militancy. Schwartz, Joseph, ‘Misreading Islamist Terrorism: The “War against Terrorism” and Just-War Theory’, Metaphilosophy, 35: 3 (2004), p. 278.

78 See John Esposito and John Voll, Democracy and Islam, New York, Oxford University Press, 1996; Niaz Kabuli, Democracy According to Islam, Pittsburgh, PA, Dorrance Publications, 1994; and Anthony Shahid, Legacy of the Prophet: Despots, Democrats, and the New Politics of Islam, Boulder, CO, Westview Press, 2001.

79 World Values Survey data from 1995–2001 support this finding, discussed in Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart, ‘Public Opinion Among Muslims and the West’, in Pippa Norris, Montague Kern and Marion Just (eds), Framing Terrorism: The News Media, the Government, and the Public, London, Routledge, 2003. In other words, the problem would seem to be not that Islam is antithetical to democracy but that repressive regimes, often with the support of Western powers, have suppressed democratic movements.

80 Esposito, ‘Political Islam’, p. 23.

81 Mumtaz Ahmad, ‘Islam and Democracy: The Emerging Consensus’, Milli Gazette, 2 October 2002, quoted in Takeyh and Gvosdev, ‘Radical Islam’, p. 94. Ahmad also notes that several Islamist parties have revised their opposition to women holding political office. Similarly, Schwartz notes that when Islamist parties have gained mainstream political influence, their political stance has often evolved in strikingly moderate and pragmatic directions. Schwartz, ‘Misreading Islamist Terrorism’, p. 280.

82 See Zelkina, Anna, ‘Islam and Security in the New States of Central Asia: How Genuine is the Islamic Threat?’, Religion, State & Society, 27: 3–4 (1999), pp. 355–72; and Shirin Akiner, ‘The Politicisation of Islam in Postsoviet Central Asia’, Religion, State & Society, 31: 2 (2003), pp. 97–122.

83 Halliday, Two Hours that Shook the World, pp. 46, 78. See also, Burke, Al-Qaeda, p. 32.

84 Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks, p. 144.

85 Robert Pape, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, New York, Random House, 2005, p. 4.

86 Ibid, pp. 4, 17, 139, 205, 210. Pape's findings are supported by recent ethnographic research. See Mia Bloom, Dying to Kill, New York, Columbia University Press, 2005.

87 Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks, pp. 93, 97, 110, 115, 121–5, 163. Other studies that question the relationship between Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism include: Stephen Holmes, ‘Al Qaeda, September 11, 2001’, in Diego Gambetta (ed.), Making Sense of Suicide Missions, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005, pp. 131–72; Ariel Merari, ‘The Readiness to Kill and Die: Suicidal Terrorism in the Middle East’, in Walter Reich (ed.), Origins of Terrorism, New York, Cambridge University Press, 1990; and Sprinzak, Ehud, ‘Rational Fanatics’, Foreign Policy, 120 (2000), pp. 6673.

88 Pape, Dying to Win, p. 216. Sageman similarly suggests that ‘from all the evidence, many participants joined in search of a larger cause worthy of sacrifice’, Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks, p. 97.

89 Halliday, Two Hours that Shook the World, pp. 129–31. See also, Barkwai, Tarak, ‘On the Pedagogy of “Small Wars”’, International Affairs, 80: 1 (2004), pp. 1937.

90 See Euban, Roxanne, ‘Killing (for) Politics: Jihad, Martyrdom, and Political Action’, Political Theory, 30: 1 (2002), pp. 435.

91 Jason Burke concludes that bin Laden's ‘grievances are political but articulated in religious terms and with reference to a religious worldview. The movement is rooted in social, economic and political contingencies.’ Burke, Al-Qaeda, pp. xxv–xxvi. See also, Peter Bergen, Holy War Inc: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2001, p. 242; and Ayoob, Mohammed, ‘The Future of Political Islam: The Importance of External Variables’, International Affairs, 81: 5 (2005), p. 955.

92 See Osama bin Laden, Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden, ed. by Bruce Lawrence, trans. by James Howarth, London, Verso, 2005.

93 Pape, Dying to Win, p. 104, emphasis added. A similar picture of Hamas can be read into Interviews from Gaza: What Hamas Wants’, Middle East Policy, 9: 4 (2002), pp. 102–15; and Henry Munson, ‘Islam, Nationalism and Resentment of Foreign Domination’, Middle East Policy, 10: 2 (2003), pp. 40–53.

94 See Copeland, Thomas, ‘Is the New Terrorism Really New? An Analysis of the New Paradigm for Terrorism’, Journal of Conflict Studies, 21: 2 (2001), pp. 91105; and available at:

95 Mark Sedgwick argues that al-Qaeda is more easily explained in terms of classic theories of terrorism as developed by nineteenth-century Italian anarchists than in religious terms. Sedgwick, Mark, ‘Al-Qaeda and the Nature of Religious Terrorism’, Terrorism and Political Violence, 16: 4 (2004), pp. 795814.

96 See Wiktorowicz, Quintan and Kaltner, John, ‘Killing in the Name of Islam: Al-Qaeda's Justification for September 11’, Middle East Policy, 10: 2 (2003), pp. 7692.

97 Annually, terrorism results in up to 7,000 fatalities globally, which is less than half the number of people murdered every year by handguns in the USA alone. As a threat to individual or national security, terrorism ranks far below state repression, small arms proliferation, organized crime, illegal narcotics, poverty, disease and global warming. There is a growing literature that challenges the terrorist threat narrative. See, among others: Richard Jackson, ‘Playing the Politics of Fear: Writing the Terrorist Threat in the War on Terrorism’, in George Kassimeris (ed.), Playing Politics With Terrorism, New York, Columbia University Press, 2007; John Mueller, Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats and Why We Believe Them, New York, Free Press, 2006; and Sprinzak, Ehud, ‘The Great Superterrorism Scare’, Foreign Policy, 112 (1998), pp. 110–24.

98 See Brian Jenkins, ‘Will Terrorists go Nuclear? A Reappraisal’, in Harvey Kushner (ed.), The Future of Terrorism: Violence in the New Millennium, London, Sage, 1998.

99 See Burke, Al-Qaeda; Bergen, Holy War Inc.; and Hegghammer, Thomas, ‘Global Jihadism after the Iraq War’, Middle East Journal, 60: 1 (2006), pp. 1122.Marc Sageman, a former US Foreign Service officer based in Islamabad from 1987 to 1989, has stated: ‘I was running those guys in Afghanistan. The foreigners did no fighting whatsoever. They claim credit because the Afghans did not write the history … The fact is that they were only involved in one small skirmish.’ See ‘The Forum: Alternative Views of the Terrorist Threat’, International Studies Review, 7 (2005), p. 677.

100 See Winkler, In the Name of Terrorism and Croft, Culture, Crisis and America's War on Terror.

101 David Campbell, Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity, revised edn, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1998.

102 Hurd, ‘Appropriating Islam’, pp. 26–7. See also Euban, ‘Killing (for) Politics’, p. 8.

103 Yee, ‘The Causal Effects of Ideas on Politics’, p. 97.

104 Jeroen Gunning points out that the ‘secular prejudice’ – the attitude whereby any expression of religiosity is treated a priori as irrational and dangerous – has underpinned a great part of the social scientific research on social movements, and in particular, studies of Islamist movements. See Jeroen Gunning, Hamas in Politics: Representation, Religion, Violence, London, Hurst, forthcoming, 2007.

105 See Winkler, In the Name of Terrorism.

106 These findings came from a Pew Research Center poll, reported in ‘Survey Highlights Islam–West Rift’, available at:, accessed 27 June 2006. Other polls show that between 48 and 66 per cent of British Muslims feel that relations between Muslims and non-Muslims had deteriorated since 11 September 2001. See ‘Draft Report on Young Muslims and Extremism’.

107 The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia released a major report on 18 December 2006 entitled, ‘Muslims in the European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia’, which details the nature and extent of the phenomenon in the EU. The report is available at

108 Scotland Yard, for example, published figures showing a 600 per cent increase in faith-hate crimes in the period immediately following the London bombings. See Alan Cowell, ‘Faith-Hate on Rise in UK’, International Herald Tribune, 4 August 2005.

109 See the poll data in: David Luban, ‘Liberalism, Torture, and the Ticking Bomb’, in Karen Greenberg (ed.), The Torture Debate in America, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 35; Alisa Solomon, ‘The Case Against Torture: A New U.S. Threat to Human Rights’, Village Voice, 28 November–4 December 2001, available at,fsolomon,30292,1.html, accessed 26 March 2006; David Morris and Gary Langer, ‘Terror Suspect Treatment: Most Americans Oppose Torture Techniques’, ABC News, available at, accessed 24 March 2006; and Will Lester, ‘Poll Finds Support for the Use of Torture in War on Terror’, Washington Times, available at, accessed 24 March 2006.

110 This point is made in Richard Jackson, ‘Language, Policy and the Construction of a Torture Culture in the War on Terrorism’, Review of International Studies (forthcoming, October 2007).

111 Esposito, ‘Political Islam’, p. 23.

112 The EU recently announced that as a result of long consultations with academic experts, it plans to review expressions such as ‘Islamic terrorism’, ‘Islamist terrorism’, ‘fundamentalism’ and ‘jihadi’ and expel them from the next edition of its dictionary – largely for the reasons expressed in this article. See ‘EU Removes “Islamic Terrorism” from its Dictionary’, Zaman Online, 12 April, 2006, available at, accessed 22 May 2006. Similarly, an internal Foreign Office–Home Office draft report on countering Islamic extremism in Britain recognized that ‘a change of language’ was required. The report noted, for example, that ‘the term “Islamic fundamentalism” is unhelpful and should be avoided, because some perfectly moderate Muslims are likely to perceive it as a negative comment on their own approach to their faith.’ See ‘Draft Report on Young Muslims and Extremism’.

1 The author wishes to thank Jenny Peterson for excellent research assistance in the preparation of this article and Jeroen Gunning, John Richardson, Tim Jacoby, Ilan Danjoux, Stuart Shields, Inderjeet Parmar, Stuart Croft and Wyn Rees for excellent comments that greatly contributed to its improvement. All remaining errors and omissions are solely my own.

Constructing Enemies: ‘Islamic Terrorism’ in Political and Academic Discourse

  • Richard Jackson


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