• September 22, 2007

Perceptions of identity: Islamist identity and neoconservatism

Project Outline*:


We are at a point of conflict and growing instability in the Middle East where the West’s projection of its perception of Islamist identity is no longer recognizable to Islamists themselves; and the Islamist perception of American motivation for actions has little if any resonance with ordinary Americans. Both sides are ideologically committed to the correctness of their perception of the other’s identity.


The purpose of this series of discussions is to look at the two alternative perceptions of identity in an effort to understand why each seems so at odds with the experience of the other. The aim is to explore how each arrived at its perception and narrative of the other in order the probe the means by which each narrative can at least be recognizable to the other – even if there remains disagreement about the vision of the future which each implies.


The participants believed that without some better comprehension of how and why the perception held by the other is so divergent from the impression held by them, the scope for meaningful exchange of ideas was limited against the background of mutually incompatible views of each other’s identity vision of its own history and political future.


This first introductory discussion examined the routes by which Islamist identity has been constructed in the US. Further discussions will focus on the way American identity appears to Americans and why its perception in the Muslim world is so much at odds with its own appreciation of the role of the US in the world.


The seminar report is available in printable format in an English version [PDF] and an Arabic version [PDF].


*Funding for this project was provided by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.