Islam in Congressional Discourse: Normalization and Securitization

38 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2014

See all articles by Alise Coen

Alise Coen

University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan

Date Written: 2014


While a growing literature examines the effect of religious affiliation and salience on legislative decision making, very little work has focused specifically on rhetoric about Islam in Congress. This paper uses senate speech data from the Congressional Record in the 106th Congress (1999-2000) and the 111th Congress (2009-2010) to examine congressional rhetoric about Islam among U.S. senators. These two periods are compared to consider (1) overall patterns in congressional discourse on Islam, (2) the impact of the September 11th attacks on congressional discourse about Islam, and (3) the effects of partisanship on normalized, securitized, positive, and negative representations of Islam. The paper ultimately argues that despite some important post-9/11 evolutions in senate rhetoric pertaining to Islam, several persistent themes merit scrutiny. This study deepens our understanding of the role of religion in American politics by assessing trends in the representation of Islam in congressional debates about U.S. foreign policy, national security, and domestic issues. Theoretically, the paper engages the Copenhagen School to consider the application of the securitization framework to congressional discourse on Islam.

Keywords: Islam, Congress, Discourse, Securitization, Orientalism, Religion, Rhetoric

Suggested Citation

Coen, Alise, Islam in Congressional Discourse: Normalization and Securitization (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Alise Coen (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan ( email )

One University Drive
Sheboygan, WI 53081
United States

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