Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Islamophobic Discourse Beneath the Façade of Liberalism and Atheism

Islamophobic Discourse Beneath the Façade of Liberalism and Atheism

Dina Charara

When President Donald Trump issued the first of three travel bans blocking travel from Muslim-majority countries in 2017, it became widely known as the “Muslim Ban”, and caused a mixed set of reactions. Sam Harris, an American neuroscientist, philosopher, blogger, podcast host, and a well-known atheist thinker, and Bill Maher, a Democrat American comedian, political commentator, and an openly atheist thinker both spoke about the travel ban. While each of them has criticized Islam for at least the past decade, this paper examines what they have said about Islam in light of the first of three travel bans issued by Donald Trump by using liberalism and atheism to support the points they make. This paper uses the work of Lakoff and Johnson (1980), Van Dijk (1993), and Santa Ana (1999) in the form of a discourse analysis to show how Harris and Maher used atheism and liberalism as ideologies to demonize Muslims and Islam around the time of the first travel ban. The primary sources of this paper include an episode of The Messy Truth with Van Jones in which Bill Maher appears as a guest, The Muslim Ban by Sam Harris, and Winning the War of Ideas—Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO) in which Sam Harris appears as a guest. This research found that Maher’s and Harris’ critique of Islam by using an Us vs. Them narrative, depicting a war of ideas with the Muslim world, and referring to non-practicing Muslims as moderate reflects Islamophobic notions.

April 5, 2019 - Posted by | abstract

1 Comment »

  1. The phobia towards Islam finds its roots in ignorance. The fact that most individuals do not understand the faith as a loving and caring religion leaves people commenting on a few events, like 9/11. Should we concentrate on the actions of a few Christians to define Christianity? Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini were both Roman Catholic. Does this mean Roman Catholicism is bad? How about the mass slaughter by pagans by Charlemagne? The ignorance of these speakers speaking of Islam in a negative way is only because they do not realize the bigger picture of the faith.

    Comment by Michael T. Vollbach | April 15, 2019 | Reply

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