A Post-election Re-reading of Islamist Political Thought

Roxanne L. Euben

Barack Obama’s post-election rhetoric regarding the “Muslim world” has signaled a critical paradigm shift from his predecessor. The new president’s characterization of the United States in his inaugural address as a “nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and nonbelievers”; his formulation, invoked in several different contexts, that America will offer a hand of friendship to a Muslim world willing to “unclench [its] fist”; the emphasis on his own mixed lineage and experience living in Muslim countries; his pledge to close the Guantánamo Bay prison camp; his interview with Al Arabiya; and the promise to address the Muslim world from a Muslim capital during his first 100 days in office, all suggest a deliberate attempt to shift away from the hardening rhetoric of a new Cold War between the West and Islam and reframe American foreign policy toward Muslim societies.1 Obama’s rhetoric has enormous symbolic importance even if it has yet to issue in dramatic departures from previous U.S. foreign policies regarding, for example, Hamas or Iran’s nuclear program. At this particular juncture, its significance lies less in the specific policies it may presage or the greater sensitivity to Muslim sensibilities it reveals than in its underlying logic: implicit in these rhetorical gestures is the understanding that, as Obama put it in his interview with Al Arabiya, “the language we use matters,” that words and categories do not simply reflect but also create the world in which we live.
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Filed Under: EgyptFeaturedIkhwan & WestMuslim Brotherhood

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