Defining the Enemy: Myth and Representation in the War on Terror

Jack Boulton


The discourse of terrorism has entered popular vernacular and is now a part of political and popular conversation. This dialogue, however, employs the use of stereotypes, generalisations and ill-defined terms which remain largely unquestioned. As a result, many misnomers exist regarding terrorism, and terrorists. This paper examines some of the generalisations related to Al Qaeda and the War on Terror and how they came into being, positing that rather than aiding in our understanding, poorly-defined information leads to the reinforcement of domination by Western powers, a heightened level of unjustified suspicion and increased marginalisation of already marginalised communities.


Al-Qaeda, terrorism, war on terror, discourse, stereotypes, politics, Muslim, religion, Salafism

Full Text:



Adorno, Theodor W

The Culture Industry. JM Bernstein, Ed. London: Routledge.

Aguayo, Michelle

Representations of Muslim bodies in The Kingdom: Deconstructing discourses in

Hollywood. Global Media Journal - Canadian Edition,. 2(2):41-56.

Allen, Chris

A ‘Normal’ Week. In INSTEAD, ed. The Search for Common Ground: Muslims,

Non-Muslims and the Media. London: Greater London Authority.


“US military course taught officers 'Islam is the enemy'” The Guardian, May 11,

Accessed 14 October 2012.

Apuzzo, Matt and Adam Goldman

“With CIA Help, NYPD Moves Covertly in Muslim Areas” Associated Press,

August 23, 2011. in-Muslim-areas. Accessed 14 October 2011.

Atwan, Abdel Bari

The Secret History of Al Qaeda. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Bobbitt, Philip

Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-First Century. London: Penguin.

Carrabine, Eamonn

Images of torture: Culture, politics and power. Crime Media Culture. 7(1):5–30.

Cottle, Simon

Mediatized Conflict. Berkshire, England: Open University Press.

Fitch, Alexander John

To What Extent Has the Discourse of “Terrorism” Served to Criminalise

Marginalised Communities? The Case of Turkish-Kurds in Britain. MSc dissertation,

Department of International Politics, University of Wales.

Forney, Matthew

“Inside the Tora Bora Caves.” Time, December 11, 2001. Accessed 22 April, 2012.,8599,188029,00.html

Gerges, Fawaz A.

The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Goldman, Adam and Matt Apuzzo

“NYPD: Muslim Spying Led to No Leads, Terror Cases” Associated Press, August

, 2012. Accessed 14 October 2012.

Gunning, Jeroen and Richard Jackson

What's so ‘Religious’ About ‘Religious Terrorism’?, Critical Studies on Terrorism,


Hall, Stuart

The Spectacle of the ‘Other’. In Stuart Hall, ed., Representation: Cultural

Representation and Signifying Practices. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Herman, Edward S. and Noam Chomsky

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. New York:

Pantheon Books.

Hodges, Adam

The “War on Terror” Narrative: Discourse and Intertextuality in the Construction

and Contestation of Sociopolitical Reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hutnyk, John

Pantomime Paranoia in London, or, “Lookout, He’s Behind You!” In Ian Peddie, ed.,

Popular Music and Human Rights volume I: British and American Music. Pp. 51-66.

Farnham: Ashgate.

Jackson, Richard

Language, Power, and Politics: Critical Discourse Analysis and the War on

Terrorism. 49th Parallel. 15. Accessed 25 May 2012.


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

Government and Opposition 42(3):394–426.

Kepel, Gilles

Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam. London: I.B.Tauris.

Lewis, Justin

Terrorism and News Narratives. In Des Freedman and Daya Kishan Thussu, Eds.,

Media and Terrorism: Global Perspectives. Pp. 257-270. London: Sage.

Meijer, Roel

Salafism: Doctrine, Diversity and Practice. In Political Islam: Context versus

Ideology. Khaled Hroub, ed. Pp. 37-60. London: London Middle East Institute at


Miller, David and Rizwaan Sabir

Propaganda and Terrorism. In Des Freedman and Daya Kishan Thussu, Eds., Media

and Terrorism: Global Perspectives. Pp. 77-94. London: Sage.

Ministry of Defence

Soldiering: The Military Covenant, Chapter 2, Operational Trends. Accessed 21

May 2012.

Nordstrom, Carolyn

A Different Kind of War Story. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Razack, Sharene H.

Imperilled Muslim Women, Dangerous Muslim Men And Civilised Europeans:

Legal And Social Responses To Forced Marriages. Feminist Legal Studies 12:129–174.

How Is White Supremacy Embodied? Sexualized Racial Violence at Abu Ghraib.

Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, 17:341-363.

Sageman, Marc

Understanding Terror Networks. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Schindler, John R.

Intelligence and Strategy in the War on Islamist Terrorism. In Secret Intelligence: A

Reader. Christopher Andrew, Richard J. Aldrich and Wesley K. Wark, eds. Pp. 245-

London: Routledge.

Sedgewick, Mark

The Concept of Radicalization as a Source of Confusion. Terrorism and Political

Violence, 22(4):479-494.

Tuman, Joseph S.

Communicating Terror: The Rhetorical Dimensions of Terrorism. Thousand Oaks,

California: Sage Publications, Inc.

Wiktorowicz, Quintan

Anatomy of the Salafi Movement. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 29:(207–239)

Wright, Lawrence

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda’s Road to 9/11. London: Penguin Books.

Home | About | User Home | Search | Current | Archives | Announcements | AGSU | Journal Production Services