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Representing the Self and the Other: Discourse of the Pakistan-based Militant Organizations

posted on 2023-09-07, 05:06 authored by Faizullah Jan

Since 9/11, the United States and its allies have been militarily engaged in a global "war on terror." Parallel to the physical war, there is a discursive struggle between the West and Muslim extremists. Both seek to win the hearts and minds of the mainstream Muslims by discursively legitimizing their own actions and de-legitimizing those of the other. Pakistan, a designated frontline ally in the "war on terror," is home to a number of militant organizations and religio-political parties that support al-Qaeda and the Taliban in their fight against the NATO forces inside Afghanistan. This study interrogates the discourse of these organizations/parties, which publish their own newspapers in Urdu language. These publications are widely distributed to the local Pakistani population. They play a critical role in securing and maintaining public support for the militant organizations. This dissertation examines how these organizations discursively construct sociopolitical reality of the world, and define the Self and the Other. This study employs Laclau and Mouffe's (1985) discourse theory to analyze three historical moments: 1) assassination of al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden (May 2, 2011); 2) the controversial YouTube video Innocence of the Muslims (September 2012); and 3) the shooting of the Pakistani child activist Malala Yousafzai (October 9, 2012). The analysis reveals the discursive strategies used by the militant organizations to create what Foucault (1980) calls regimes of truth and articulate identities of the Self and the Other. The significant findings of the study include the following. The militant discourse disarticulates Muslim leaders from the umma, rendering the rulers and state institutions as unrepresentative. Moreover, the discourse casts these governments and political elites as the "near enemy," allied to the "far enemy." i.e. the West, particularly the United States. This discourse constructs the social reality that Muslims are in a `state of siege,' facing an existential threat from the West. This construction of a sociopolitical reality has material consequences as violence against the Other becomes the only and justified means to escape the state of siege and ensure survival. Understanding of the extremist narratives and the ways they feed the broader militant discourse may yield more meaningful and effective strategies for the West to communicate with the mainstream Muslims. Future research in the field of audience reception is required to explore the diverse ways in which the readers decode the text of militant publications. Such a research will also throw light on the effectiveness of the communication system of the militant organizations in expanding their support base.





Degree awarded: Ph.D. School of Communication. American University.; Electronic thesis available to American University authorized users only, per author's request.


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American University. School of Communication

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  • Doctoral

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