Navigating popular conversations around Islam and Muslims across eastern-western socio-cultural and geopolitical terrains reveals a critical site of inquiry that necessitates unpacking the discursive formations of the Muslim image, particularly in the twenty-first century. For a more focused analysis, I propose a case-study reading of the discourses shaping the popularized images of Muslims in the United States. To properly ground this reading in theory, I suggest an examination of two prominent discourses, i.e., American Orientalism and American Exceptionalism. Then, I explore a conflicting paradox essential to the U.S. global identity that celebrates America as a set of timeless and universal human ideals yet confines to the reality of the United States as a nation-state. It is this seemingly contradictory characterization of the United States–I argue–that misconfigures Americans’ attitude towards and sustains their perceptions, if not misconceptions, of Islam and Muslims; thereby offering a breathing ground to the sensational narratives of Islamophobia and clash of civilizations.
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Citation: Mahdi, Waleed F. “Liberal or Imperial: U.S. Discursive Formations of the Muslim Image.” In Transformation of the Muslim World in the 21st Century, ed., Muhammed Mercan. Cambridge Scholar Publishing, 49-62, 2016.