Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2012

Document Type



International Affairs


This paper seeks to understand the ways that popular American media images and Western understandings of Islamism are unrepresentative of the tradition. Modern day media bombards the Western world with images of women in burquas, and extremist Islamist statements and evaluates these ideas and images with “Islamism”. This paper shows, however that Islamism cannot be understood as a simple term, but is rather a complex network of ideas and values. As the three case studies- the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood highlight the complex nature of the term Islamism. The Taliban was a parochial organization that aimed to mimic the times of the Prophet during its period of dominance in the late 1990’s, but reformed itself and became a more modern insurgent movement postZ2001. Al Qaeda, meanwhile, demonstrates radical ideas about the nature of Sharia’ and international Islamic governance. Finally, the Muslim Brotherhood illuminates how Islamist policies can promote democracy. The stark differences among these Islamist organizations supports the claim that Islamism is not one simple definition, but rather, represents a variety of organizations and ideas that are constantly evolving.