Sociolinguistics of arabic
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SOCIOLINGUISTICS OF ARABIC. SINFREE MAKONI FEBRUARY, 2012. RATIONALE. Question: Is it possible that the US-led war on ‘terror’ through the images, discourses, interpretation of Arabic and media discourses: under cuts its anti-terrorism project potential misleads the general public

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Sociolinguistics of arabic






  • Question:

    • Is it possible that the US-led war on ‘terror’ through the images, discourses, interpretation of Arabic and media discourses:

      • under cuts its anti-terrorism project

      • potential misleads the general public

  • Theoretical Framework

    • Systemic Functional Grammar

    • To what extent can ‘verbal hygiene’ (Deborah Cameron xxx) and normative linguistics be useful in anti-terrorism projects ?

Military history and current role of communication in us war s of terror

Military history and current role of communication in US ‘war/s of terror’

  • ‘The United States must do more to communicate its message. How can in a man in cave out communicate the world’s leading most powerful country ?” Holbrooke (the late, previously the most powerful and senior US envoy)

Sociolinguistics of arabic


  • Significance of 9/11

  • Precedent:

  • American bombing of ambassadors in East Africa

  • More catastrophic events prior to 9/11

  • 9/11 however acquired global status

9 11 in historical context

9/11 in Historical Context

  • Other events which occurred at 9/11

  • Anniversary of the Chilean coup that ousted Pinochet President Allende

  • National Day in Spain.

  • Associated with the day Austrians broke the Muslim siege of Vienna

Al qaeda


  • al-Qaeda

  • al-Qa’ida

  • ‘Base’

  • “...according to Curtis the idea of al-Qaeda/al-Qaida is an American invention….which was brought to the American attention after 9/11.It appears bin Laden (Qsama,Usama) started using it specifically to refer to an organization when the US began to use it” (http accessed February 15.2012).

Terms semantics


  • Most scholars on Islam acknowledge that Jihad is a contested term in Islamic jurisprudence (Michael Knapp…) it might be used to refer to warfare or a ‘struggle’ for peace, a struggle to attain one’s individual goals. The debate is at times which of the meanings is paramount

  • ‘Jihad’ is a verbal noun with the literal meaning of ‘striving’ or ‘determined effort’

  • Jihad is also used to refer to ‘warfare’-the controversy is which of the two conflicting meanings: Jihad as a (i) peaceful process (2) ‘warfare’ is paramount.

Jihad as a term

Jihad as a term

  • ‘Jihad against drugs’

  • ‘Jihad of the pen’

  • ‘Jihad fi sabil illah’ striving in the name of God

  • ‘In short

  • ‘Striving in the path of God’ is a duty of all Muslims. Calling our enemies Jihadsis and their movement a global jihad thus indicates that we recognize their doctrines and actions as being in the path of God, and for Muslims legitimate.. In short ,we explicitly designate ourselves as the enemies of Islam’ (

    Streusand and Harry Tunnell IV).

Islamic jurisprudence

Islamic Jurisprudence

  • ‘One major form of ‘peaceful jihad is the war of the Muslim against his ‘nafs’, an Arabic term that may be translated as the ‘lower self’, and which refers to an individual’s inferior drives and evil motives. The most dangerous enemy never disappears, hence the ‘war knows no end…’

    http (accessed February 20.2012)



  • Mujahid (plural mujahidin or mujahadeen one who participates in a jihad thus legitimates it.

  • To extend the term of mujahadeen to US enemies is to legitimize them in the eyes of some Moslems.

  • ‘This request to turn us over by the Americans still stands, but the Taliban have told us several times that we are Mujahideen of this country and they would lay down their lives for us because God’s favor to us’ (al-Quaeda documents with the National Defense University)

Mufsid moofsid

Mufsid (moofsid)

  • Fitna literally means temptation or trial, but has come to refer to strife among Muslims, a fitna is a tempter or subversive. Applying the terms to our enemies and their works condemns their current activities as divisive and harmful.

  • It also identifies them with movements and individuals in Islamic history with negative reputations such as the assasins of the Caliph Uthman in 656, who created the first fissure in the Muslim community



  • Command cell

  • Information cell

  • Supply cell

  • Executive cell

  • (source AQ-SHID-D-600-085: National Defense University records)

The magazine used by al quaeda to communicate with the outside world as part of its technology

The magazine used by al-Quaeda to communicate with the outside world as part of its technology



  • Arab/conflict in NY City

  • Intifada and NYC (

  • Language & Conflict in Lebanon within in an impoverished war-affected, largely monolingual community delivers sound bilingual policy

Lone wolf

‘Lone wolf’

  • The term initially used to describe extremists-ostensibly working alone. …

  • Has been referred to as a ‘lone wolf’-the term should not be taken at face value. Each ‘lone wolf’ is not ‘a lone wolf’ because she/he tends to work with other people a maximum of four people. According to Al-Qaeda documents at the National Defense University (public documents)

  • The cell in which each lone wolf is a part is typically separate from other cells-lone wolves. The separation between the cells is for strategic reasons because if members of a cell are caught then other cell members are not necessarily affected as well.

Suicide or martyr

Suicide or martyr

  • Suicide

  • Marty's

  • Self-chosen martyrdom

  • Discourses of war

  • Discourses and ‘human terrain systems’ which are at the intersection of: a military reference to culture

  • Battle-field technology, military-driven scientific policy, media coverage, war games and pornography

Lone wolfs

Lone Wolfs

  • How lone is lone in Lone Wolfs ?

  • ‘Operating in cities requires small and separate cells of no more than four individuals. These individuals are preferably from the city and not country side or Bedouins, because moving inside the city requires members who are accustomed to the city. In the city there are quite a few operatives because of the importance of the city since this is location of state targets , powerful figures. These represent state power. That is why the cells should be small and separate in case one cell or its members are arrested. In the state…other cells or its members are left’ (AQ-SHPD-D-001-157)

Instruments for communication

Instruments for communication

  • Modes of communication by al-Quaeda

  • Oratory

  • Pamphlets

  • Posters

  • Slogan

  • Cassettes

  • Rumors:

  • ‘ When there is less trusted information there is an increase in rumors. This is the true media fact, as people have lost trust in the tyrant media. The jihad media despite all efforts remains too small to cover all areas.’

Sociolinguistics of arabic

  • Magazine in English which is a process of recruiting members:

  • Effective counter-messaging through internet

  • Project being reflected on…

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