Intertextual borrowings in ideologically competing discourses: The case of the Middle East

Kawakib Momani, Muhammad A. Badarneh, Fathi Migdadi

Jordan University of Science & Technology


This study examines ideologically driven intertextual borrowings in political discourse in light of political events related to the Middle East. Its primary concern is to explore the ideological struggle and power relations governing the production of political text. For this purpose, this study analyses a variety of texts on the Middle East in both Arabic and English. These texts are analyzed through a multi-dimensional approach of Critical Discourse Analysis. It is argued that what sometimes seems to be an innocent and neutral historical reference, including quotations, hides much more dynamism and involvement that is not less ideologically driven than directly stated stances.

Keywords: intertextuality; Middle East; political discourse; moral ambivalence; ideology; religion

1. Introduction

Political discourse on the Middle East has witnessed an unprecedented dynamism. With the acceleration and escalation of events in the Middle East after the events of September 11, 2001, different political parties have been involved in a linguistic war not less vicious than military war. Language has been recruited effectively by each party to cause maximum damage to the other. Different discursive practices have been used to make language more effective in influencing the decisions taken by each party. One of these practices is intertextuality, whereby different genres, discourses, and voices are mixed or combined in a political text. This combination, as this study argues, can be used as a strategy to produce effective political discourse. Combination of different genres and discourses marks off social practices and ideologies, and voice is an indication of who the participants of the discourses are and what identity they assume.

The present study approaches intertextuality in relation to religious references which have permeated political discourse in and on the Middle East. The presence of religion in Middle Eastern political discourse has particularly increased since 1991 with the US and Western direct military intervention in the region, reaching its apogee after the events of 9/11 with the Islamist discourse of Bin Laden and the biblical references and Armageddon-style rhetoric of George Bush in which he referred constantly to the battle between the forces of good and evil. This study, therefore, is concerned with the different use of discourse resources in an ideologically charged frontal clash between two different visions of the world. Such clash represents in an obvious way the highest barrier to intercultural communication.

2. Intertextuality

The concept of intertextuality goes back to the works of Bakhtin (Bakhtin 1981, 1986) in which he emphasized the 'dialogic' qualities of texts, that is, how multiple voices are transformed and re-used each time a new text is produced. But it has been a much used term since it was coined by Julia Kristeva in the late 1960s to capture the ways in which texts and ways of talking refer to and build on other texts and discourses (Kristeva 1986). In this way, a text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations. That is, every text is made up of snatches of prior texts which are used to build a new text.

Kristeva (1986) identifies two types of intertextuality, horizontal and vertical. Horizontal intertextuality, or what Fairclough (1993) calls manifest intertextuality, refers to explicitly demarcated references and has the function of manifesting others' ideas in discourse. It consists of references made in order to clarify a certain point or to continue, build up, or develop new ideas. The relations between the new information and old information are usually stated clearly or clued (e.g. by using quotation marks) in the new text. This reformation and manipulation of original texts is referred to by Fairclough (1992) as 'direct discourse representation' in which parts of other texts are incorporated into a text and usually explicitly marked off with devices such as quotation marks and reporting clauses. This direct representation of discourse adds to the power of the proposition put forward by the producer because through quotations the writer seems to have departed from the formation of the conceptions, giving the impression that it is not the text producer who believes this. This is a face-saving practice as text producers try to convince the receiver of the proposition they make without apparently stating this and, consequently, maintain a style of objectivity which is referred to by Rojo (1995:54) as 'moral ambivalence'. The example of the speech of Pope Benedict XVI which will be discussed below is a case in point.

Vertical intertextuality, or what Fairclough (1993) calls constitutive intertextuality, refers to merging prior texts in new texts which may assimilate, contradict, or ironically echo them. Fairclough (1992:102) argues that 'a text may incorporate another text without the latter being explicitly cued: one can respond to another text in the way one words one's own text'. This type of intertextuality, thus, refers to 'the configuration of discourse conventions that go into production of the text' (Fairclough 1992:104). An example of this would be mixed genres. It is closely related to orders of discourse and social change where many values are integrated to exceed the textual level and get the receiver to seek hidden discourses. These hidden discourses involve the reformation of existing social, cultural, and ideological values and molding them in a way that serves the producer's goals. Therefore, constitutive intertextuality affects and is affected by social order and the hegemonic struggle marking off power relations in society. It is the relationship between texts and practices.

Intertextuality can be examined through different processes. In the production process of texts, the focus is on how texts can transform prior texts and restructure existing conventions to generate new ones, and what additions to the existing text consist of prior text. This sort of productivity is socially restricted and conditional upon power relations in the society or institution, hence, a combination of intertextuality and theory of power (Fairclough 1992). In terms of distribution, it is important to realize how intertextuality helps in exploring stable networks along which a text moves in cases of transformation of one text type to another. In terms of consumption, intertextuality helps in stressing that it is not just the text that shapes interpretation but those other texts which the interpreters bring to the interpretation process.

This dynamic nature of intertextuality is important since elements of a text may be designed to be interpreted in different ways by different receivers. This is related to the different mental representations of different receivers (Chilton 2004) or the relevant presuppositions that may be deeply entrenched in their past. Culler (1981) argues that producers do not necessarily realize what the text presupposes. Rather, it is the others who reveal these presuppositions depending on their experiences and on the clues provided in the text for their interpretation. This sort of ambivalence makes intertextuality more dynamic. Therefore, the new use of intertexts interacts effectively and dynamically with the addressee's knowledge assumed by the author. Every text producer presupposes some degree of common knowledge and shared beliefs between themselves and the receiver of their text. Users of the same language within the same social group may not even think about references made to this shared knowledge. However, these references may appear stunning to members of other social groups.

3. The present study

This study argues that both types of intertextuality are discursively (dynamically) used in political discourse. There are signs of mixed genres and combinations of different voices in political discourse on the Middle East, especially from 1991 to the present, which is done in different ways and for different purposes. In all cases, intertextuality is employed in order to demarcate ideological struggle and power relations. Van Dijk (2003, 2005) identifies the following strategies in the ideological representation of discourse: emphasizing positive things about Us, emphasizing negative things about Them, de-emphasizing negative things about Us, and de-emphasizing positive things about Them. These can be summarized in two main strategies: positive self representation and negative other representation. One purpose of inserting prior texts in new texts is to cause harm to opponents and expose their 'negative' intentions, hence producing a 'negative' image of them.

Another practice discussed in this study within intertextuality is direct representation (i.e. quoting others). It is sometimes easy for the ordinary receiver to recognize the negative connotations behind what seems to be a quotation, but in most times it creates some sort of ambivalence as to whose voice one is listening, in which case it seems necessary to uncover the ideology behind that. Quoting others makes the producer seem neutral and objective, hence giving the impression that the producer is talking about things as facts when in fact he / she may intend to convey an ideological message. Therefore, this kind of intertextuality is never innocent but rather hides implicit ideological meanings. It is a strategy of saving the text producer's face through alienating him/herself from the proposition made by the original speaker.

In this study we examine the practice of intertextuality in texts related to Middle Eastern conflicts. Intertextuality, both vertical and horizontal, will be highlighted in an attempt to explore the ideological interactions manifested through the use of prior texts in new ones. Three discourses of three actors will form the core of the discussion: Bin Laden, Bush, and the Pope. Religious-historical references will be highlighted in extracts selected from speeches by the three actors. Reactions to these references will also be included in the analysis. All the examples in this study will be analyzed within a multidisciplinary framework of critical discourse analysis advocated by many discourse analysts such as Fairclough (1989), Wodak (2001), van Dijk (1995, 2003, 2005), and Chilton (2004). A discourse-historical approach is also deemed necessary to shed light on the origins of the references made in the texts.

The analysis will be concerned with religious discourse representations in the speeches of these actors. It will be carried out under the two headings of 'mixing genres' and 'mixing voices'. The conjectures of purpose, code of behavior, and audience (Chouliaraki and Fairclough 1999) will be highlighted in the analysis. The following questions related to these aspects, derived from van Dijk's (2003) heuristics method of ideology, are to be answered in the analysis of each example:

Purpose: Why are the actors saying what they are saying? What do they want to achieve? What do they have that others do not? What do not they have that others do have?

Code of behavior: Who is speaking? What is he doing? What is expected of him? Where do we stand in society?

Audience: Who is he speaking to? What is his discourse community? Who are his friends or enemies?

Related to these questions, van Dijk's (2003, 2005) strategies of ideological representation in the analysis of discourse, namely, positive self representation and negative other representation, will also be highlighted in the analysis.

4. Analysis

4.1 Intertextuality in George Bush's discourse

4.1.1 Mixing genres

Political discourse is supposed to be persuasive and democratic leaders are expected to be honest with the audience and present facts as they are. However, during wartime, this is rarely the case due to the secrecy requirement and the endeavor to preserve spirits. When things go wrong, political leaders are supposed to explain but they rarely do that in a direct way. Rather, they resort to different discursive strategies to be more effective and influential. One of these strategies is mixing genres and discourses and combining different voices within a segment of political discourse to interface with society and produce favorable effects on the public. The hypothesis on which this argument is based is that intertextuality can be used as a strategy to produce the most effective discourse within a political setting. A glance at political discourse related to the Middle East conflict will show that religious intertextuality is an in-built structure of this discourse, whether implicitly or explicitly. The US, a major political player in the region, especially after 9/11, has used religion as a discourse strategy of legitimizing war. This use of religion by the US may have been motivated by domestic political and ideological factors, but it has been construed by many Muslims as a war against their own religion. This understanding was reinforced by George Bush's description of his 'war on terror' as a crusade, a word of extremely negative connotations in Muslim collective memory (to be discussed later). In more than one occasion Bush described his war against Iraq and Afghanistan as a mission:

And the best way to honor the sacrifice of our fallen troops is to complete the mission and to lay the foundation of peace for generations to come (November 2005, President Commemorates Veterans Day)

A war that is launched to establish peace seems to be acceptable and justifiable. The example given above shows how the West depended on the ideology of 'good' vs. 'evil' in waging its crusades centuries ago. It also shows that combining religious discourse and political discourse to support the act of fighting 'evil' reinforces the idea of a 'mission' that has created some sort of rapport between political leaders and the public in justifying invading Iraq. This has been uncovered after the fall of Baghdad in 2003 when George Bush landed on an aircraft carrier where he gave a speech announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq. Clearly visible in the background was a banner which read "Mission Accomplished." This was confirmed all through his speech that day, 1 May 2003.

Text 1

Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision and speed and boldness the enemy did not expect, and the world had not seen before. From distant bases or ships at sea, we sent planes and missiles that could destroy an enemy division, or strike a single bunker. Marines and soldiers charged to Baghdad across 350 miles of hostile ground, in one of the swiftest advances of heavy arms in history. You have shown the world the skill and the might of the American Armed Forces (

George Bush's audience was American soldiers, American people, and the world at large. The purpose was to boost the moral of the soldiers, to reinforce his re-election, and to send a threatening message to whoever thinks of tampering with the American power. This is revealed in the last sentence of the above extract, 'You have shown the world the skills and the might of the American Armed Forces'

On other occasions, Bush described his war as a crusade. Let us study an extract taken from Bush's remarks on the events of 9/11:


Text 2

We need to go back to work tomorrow and we will.  But we need to be alert to the fact that these evil-doers still exist.  We haven't seen this kind of barbarism in a long period of time.  No one could have conceivably imagined suicide bombers burrowing into our society and then emerging all in the same day to fly their aircraft - fly U.S. aircraft into buildings full of innocent people - and show no remorse.  This is a new kind of -- a new kind of evil.  And we understand.  And the American people are beginning to understand.  This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.  And the American people must be patient.  I'm going to be patient (George W. Bush, September 16, 2001)

The word crusade originally refers to the wars that were launched in the name of Christianity centuries ago. Under this slogan a lot of confrontations between the West and Muslim world took place. In its original meaning, a crusade was a Christian holy war, and in that sense it was a contradiction in terms of Christ’s whole teaching was to love thy neighbor, not kill him (Acocella 2004). The Crusades lasted hundreds of years in the Middle East, and through centuries of bitter fighting, the word became freighted with intolerance and religious persecution. Overtly the Crusade was described in the West as a 'mission' to achieve justice, but it was seen in the Orient as a campaign for hegemony and control.

Within the strategies of 'emphasizing negative things about Them' and 'emphasizing positive things about Us', two images are produced through the use of evil and crusade in the above text: good people and bad people. George Bush starts with the inclusive pronoun 'we' that is sustained throughout his speech. The use of this pronoun gives the feeling that the government and people form one front in fighting 'evil' and hence there are solidarity and consensus in relation to this issue. Fighting evil is presented as legitimate and a war that is launched for that purpose is a crusade with a noble mission. This crusade will take a long time since it is not a traditional war where the enemy is located within specific borders. The text producer uses the expression crusade for its favorable religious connotations as a mission of peace, love and justice, in order to make his argument convincing. The producer emphasizes the negative things about Them through expressions like 'barbarism', 'without remorse', 'a new kind of evil', and 'terrorism', while emphasizing good things about Us through distancing himself from 'evil' actions in expressions like 'we haven't seen this kind of barbarism',  'no one could have conceivably imagined suicide bombers burrowing into our society and then emerging all in the same day to fly their aircraft – fly U.S. aircraft into buildings full of innocent people.'

Political actors usually resort to different discursive strategies to be more effective and influential in justifying actions that might seem unacceptable. One of these strategies is combining influential discourse, such as religious one, with political discourse to legitimize actions. The attacks of 9/11 were seen by the attackers as jihad 'holy war'. Realizing the power of religion, the US seems to have decided to use the same weapon back. However, the use of crusade by Bush was not particularly welcomed as it called up images of wars waged in the name of God centuries ago, which will be discussed below.

4.1.2. Mixing voices

Many writers both in the West and in the Arab world reacted negatively to Bush's discourse and his use of 'mission accomplished'. One example is taken from a letter to the editor of Jordan Business of January 2007, which goes as follows:

Text 3

Why is the Bush administration worried about which exit strategy to use in Iraq? All it has to do is break out of the old MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner.

Writing the expression with the upper case is the only formal clue that indicates intertextuality. Yet, an open minded receiver will not be able to relate this expression to its context unless they are familiar with Bush's original use of the term. Therefore, there is a high degree of ambivalence as to whose voice one is listening even though the producer has marked off the expression. The metaphorical use of 'crusade' by Bush was met with a storm of indignation, not only in Muslim countries but also in the West. This was because of the negative associations it evoked. Later, when it was explained to Bush that the crusades were 'the equivalent of Christian jihads', he promptly apologized for his use of the word (Derbyshire 2001). Interestingly, many writers commented on Bush's use of crusade, criticizing what was seen as a 'slip of tongue' and expressing their concern about the consequences of evoking the negative correspondences associated with this word. Some of these comments used constitutive intertextuality of the term, giving the impression that the words are the author's words while in fact they are referring to Bush's use of the term. Let us study the following texts:

Text 4

There are reasons to be impressed by Bush's new doctrine. There are also reasons to be very afraid. It would be good if this country's foreign policy more closely tracked our professed ideals. It would be disastrous if self-righteous hubris led us into bloody and hopeless crusades. (Los Angeles Times, January 21, 2005)

Text 5

So, it was a holy war, a new crusade. No wonder George W. Bush could lie to Congress and the American public with such impunity while keeping the key members of his Cabinet in the dark. He was serving a higher power, according to Bob Woodward, who interviewed the president for a new book on the months leading up to the Iraq invasion. (Scheer 2004)

No manifestation marks, e.g. italics, bold face, different font, which could link this text to Text (1), can be observed in these examples. The authors of these texts depend entirely on the receiver's knowledge of Bush's use of crusade in his address. It is more like horizontal intertextuality where the author is taking his turn in a dialogue previously started by somebody else. Hoey (2001:43) points out that 'readers and writers are like dancers following each other's steps, and the reader's chances of guessing correctly what is going to happen next in a text are largely enhanced if the writer takes the trouble to anticipate what the reader might be expecting'. Knowing the context then is a key element in interpreting the signs sent by these intertexts. It is this relationship between authors that gives us clues about the function of language. The clues given in the above two texts tell us that their purpose is to criticize Bush's use of the word 'crusade'.

The relationship between text and context operates at two levels. The first is linguistic context which is derived from the formal relationships between utterances in the text, like starting with 'so' in Text (3), which summarizes something previously suggested. The second is non-linguistic context which exceeds the formal level and views a text as a compilation of cultural textuality. In this sense, the text is not an individual object separated from cultural background knowledge about the discourses of the original language users. In fact, text and culture can not be separated from each other. Kristeva (quoted in Hoey 2001:36) insists on this attachment of text to culture by arguing that 'all texts … contain within them the ideological structures and struggles expressed in society through discourse'. Therefore, it is the audience who decides what the right interpretation is through the experiences they bring to the text. This happens only if the audience belongs to the same culture or to the same discourse community, or has enough background knowledge about the discourses of the original language users. Interpreting the use of 'crusade' in Texts (2) and (3) as a criticism of Bush's policies is only possible if the receiver is familiar with the original use of this term by Bush and the controversy the term created within and outside the US.

As a result of the dialectical relationship between language and culture, and capitalizing on the air of animosity and negative historical experiences of the Muslim world with the West, Bin Laden recruited the image evoked by the term 'crusade' in his rhetoric against the US. The negative correspondences in the Muslim collective memory of the brutality of medieval crusades made this exploitation very effective. Thus Bin Laden used the term (the Arabic equivalent of course) to remind his audience of the atrocities committed during the crusades and to warn them of similar future ones by the West. The following is an excerpt from an interview with Bin Laden aired by CNN on February 5, 2002:

Text 6

Bin Laden said, "We kill the kings of the infidels, kings of the crusaders and civilian infidels in exchange for those of our children they kill. This is permissible in Islamic law and logical."

Bin laden uses the word crusade here to persuade his Muslim audience that the war which the US is waging in the Middle East is a war against Islam, an extension of the Crusades. The intertextuality of the term was similarly exploited by another political actor in the region, the leader of the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas, who used this equivalent Arabic term to suggest that the US is leading an anti-Muslim Crusade and that people should unite against this hamla salibiyya. A reporter quoted him as saying:

Text 7

"This is a new Crusade war, a new war of crusades that Bush is leading," declared the Hamas leader, Muhammad Al-Zahar, speaking on the official Palestinian network (PBC) run by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, the successor to Yasser Arafat. The Palestinian Hamas leader repeated several times that U.S. President George Bush was leading a new stage of Christian crusades against the Islamic world, and he even repeated his claim in English, interspersing the term 'crusades' with hamla salibiyya, the Arabic term. (Widlanski 2007)

All these references to Bush's use of crusade are constitutive intertexts where Bush's voice, the author's voice and the receiver's knowledge interact dynamically in discourse. The 'slip of the tongue' has thus been recruited by different authors for different purposes. However, other writers preferred to use manifest intertextuality as a strategy of detachment and exclusion. Text producers may mark off others' propositions to detach themselves from whatever negative correspondences evoked by a particular expression. Manifest intertextuality also has the function of criticizing the original language user, exposing their intentions in a mocking way as in the following example:

Text 8

'Crusade' against 'jihad'? Faced with the war in Iraq's risks of getting bogged down, the feared scenario of a religious confrontation seems already in place. From one side, calls to prayer and fasting, constant references to the Bible: George Bush's speeches also mobilize Christian ritual and dogma for the legitimization of the war. (Henri Tincq 2003)

Using the quotation marks implies that these are not the writer's words, which alienates the writer from the connotations of both words. Creating an image of religious wars in which each group claims that their faith is the right one and that they should fight to protect it, may help leaders win the hearts and minds of the audience who support those leaders for their religious commitment. However, this may also evoke negative correspondences attached to the term 'crusades' in the opponent's community. The use of crusade in this context was seen as a provocative practice which may produce nothing but more violence and bloodshed.

4.2 Intertextuality in Bin Laden's discourse

4.2.1. Mixing genres

In this statement, made after the US declaration of 'war on terror', Bin Laden tries to explain that this war is directed against Islam and Muslims. He also tries to stress that the goal of the US is to exercise hegemony over the region, which, according to him, involves suppressing and subjugating Muslims and Arabs in the Middle East under the pretext of fighting terrorism. Bin Laden's statement is aimed at the masses rather than the elite or political regimes. It utilizes the Muslim feeling of betrayal by the West after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the series of occupations which followed Belford Promise and the Sykes-Pecos agreement which resulted in weak states incapable of defending themselves. Some Arabs soon realized that their salvation can only be achieved by going back to Islam. Bin Laden's acts against the West have come within this historical context, which partly explains the admiration that he has received in many parts of the Arab and Muslim world for standing up to what is perceived as continuous humiliation of the nation on the hands of the West.

In terms of 'code of behavior', Bin laden believes that through combining religion and politics in his discourse, he is obeying the religious command of fighting those who drive Muslims out of their homeland. In fighting them, he believes he is performing a holy war to which he will be rewarded in the Hereafter. As MacLeod (2001) points out, Bin Laden, in his speeches, tries to present the activities of the West in today's Arab world as a return of the Crusades, which has been drummed into Muslims and Arabs in their history books as a dark era, and one that was heroically resisted by Muslim warriors. And he is trying to fashion his image as the savior who will right the wrong doings of the West. He tries to present himself as personifying the spirit of Saladin and others who are embraced as heroes in the Arab world for fighting the infidels. Osama Bin Laden does not find it difficult to convince the Muslim public of his reasons. Although not all Muslims accept the salafist 'fundamentalist' philosophy to which he is committed, the majority still believe there are enough reasons to fight America and Israel. Moreover, according to the salafist philosophy adopted by Al-Qaeda, any Muslim who questions the legitimacy of its war against Israel and the USA is seen as a traitor and 'infidel' and so deserves to be fought too. This is why Al-Qaeda has also targeted places in the Arab world and in other parts of the world which they believe provide a safe haven to the enemies of Islam: Americans and Israelis. Let us study the following extract:

Text 9

I say that the situation is clear and obvious. After this event, after the senior officials have spoken in America, starting with the head of infidels worldwide, Bush, and those with him, they have come out in force with their men and have turned even the countries that belong to Islam to this treachery, and they want to wag their tail at God, to fight Islam, to suppress people in the name of terrorism. (The Guardian, October 7, 2001)

'Infidels' is a synonym of disbelievers (kafiroon in Arabic), i.e., those who do not believe in God. This term has been used in most of Bin Laden's speeches to describe the Americans and their allies. In his 'Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places', published in the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi on February 23, 1998, he declares that 'a free man does not surrender leadership to infidels and sinners'. Later in a statement after the American declaration of 'war on terror', he used this term again to describe the Americans. Here is an extract of the translated version published in The Guardian of October 7, 2001:

"Three months after our blessed attack against the main infidel West, especially America, and two months after the infidel's attacks on Islam, we would like to talk about some of the implications of those incidents," Bin Laden said. (The Guardian, December 27, 200: Bin Laden calls Sept. 11 attacks 'blessed terror')

For Bin Laden, George Bush and all those behind him are sinners and invaders, which accordingly legitimize fighting them.

4.2.2 Mixing voices

The word infidel has been used later by many Western writers to criticize Bin Laden's rhetoric. This intertextuality was observed in many writings related to 'war on terror'. In terms of constitutive intertextuality, the term may create some sort of ambivalence to the open-minded receiver who is not aware of the original use. One example is taken from The Guardian of October 14, 2001: 

Text 10

The organization of Al-Qaeda announces to the Americans and to all the infidels in the Arabian Peninsula, starting with the Americans and the British, orders to leave the Arabian Peninsula.

Richard Dawkins, in an article entitled 'The victory of Bin Laden', published in The Guardian of March 22, 2003, uses infidels in the same way:

Text 11

Bin Laden must be beside himself with glee. And the infidels are now walking right into the Iraq trap.

In the above two examples, no marks of manifestation are used. Bin Laden's use of 'infidels' is part of a new discourse creating more subtlety to the open-minded receiver and a lot of excitement to the discourse community. The sarcastic tone of the use is in evidence and understanding that would not be a problem for members of the producer's discourse community. What is interesting about the expression infidels is that it was used by Christians long before Bin Laden. During the first Crusade, Muslims were treated as infidels and were fought for their infidelity. Gilkes (2007) says the following:

Text 12

During the first Crusades the Church tapped into a feeling of prejudice that labeled the Muslim [Saracen] as an infidel and at the onset of the colonial period, the Church and its Protestant spin-offs, was conditioned and was conditioning others to see unbaptized strangers as less than human.

Acocella (2004) argues that a crusade is originally a Christian holy war, and in that sense it was a contradiction in terms of Christ’s whole teachings. How did this contradiction come into existence? Acocella explains that 'the early Christians had enemies, whom they needed to fight on occasion. So the Church fathers went to work on the doctrine, and by the eleventh century it was agreed that in certain circumstances God might not only condone war but demand it' provided that there is a reason and so 'the church claimed that it had such a cause when Jerusalem had fallen into the hands of infidels'. So, their mission was to make war on infidels. Yet no one uses infidels at our time to mark off Christian discourse. When Pope Benedict XVI presented his famous lecture on September 12, 2006, in which he talked about the relationship between religions and violence, he argued that 'violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul'. Hence the Pope contradicts the argument provided above about the relationship between Christianity and crusades – which aimed at fighting infidels. He even went farther to talk about infidels as something that is alien to Christianity and so he detached himself from the expression through the quotation marks hinting that it is an Islamic use:

Text 13

In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Quran, concerning holy war... Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached". (Pope Benedict XVI September, 12, 2006)

The quotation above shows a complete denunciation of wars launched in the name of God and slaughtering others under the slogan of fighting the infidels. This is a practice of exclusion in which the words of others are clearly marked off to give the impression that they do not belong to the speaker's discourse. 'Those who have the book' is used in Islam to refer to Jews and Christians who are to be respected as long as they do not fight Muslims or drive them out of their land. 'Infidels', however, refers to atheists who do not believe in God and who are to be shown the way to righteousness. Both expressions have been marked off with quotation marks to dismiss any association between them and the Christian doctrine. Such interpretation finds support in the textual context of the reference to the emperor's dialogue with the (Persian), the discoursal context represented by the timing of the lecture which was given on the day following the fifth memorial of the 9/11 attacks and the public atmosphere of the 'war on terror', interpreted by many Muslims as 'war on Islam'.

Citation is usually resorted to in order to substantiate a proposition made by the text producer. Although it is used in the academic context to add objectivity and avoid plagiarism, it can still be used as an ideologically charged discursive practice. The choice of the citation is intentional. Sometimes people resort to this practice when it is risky for them to say things directly as their own. Giving negative comments with implied accusation is seen as a sort of verbal attack. By commenting on or accusing others of a particular act, the producer runs the risk of being seen as aggressive and offensive. To avoid this risk, text producers may prefer to say what they want to say indirectly by quoting others. As Gadavanij (2002) argues, borrowing another person's voice to make the point can achieve two goals at the same time: one can attack the opponent without having to bear the responsibility for the act.

Although Rojo (1995) describes this practice as creating moral ambivalence, some people have seen the Pope's citation as a deliberately provocative reference at a critical time of escalating hostility between Islam and the West. For the Pope's discourse community, the citation has only reinforced stereotypes about Islam and Muslims that are already inculcated in Western mentality, and so there is nothing new in the Pope's remarks. His quotation was accepted by his audience as it corresponded to the Western image of Islam.

However, Carroll (2004) believes that both Bush and Bin Laden are mirror perspectives of each other. He demonstrates that both Bush and those Popes who launched medieval crusades see war on terrorism as a struggle of the righteous believers in Christ against Islamic heretics. Carroll believes that this is ironic because Islamic radicals see the conflict in just the opposite way. An example of manifest intertextuality to mark off Bin Laden's discourse can be seen in an article published in The Guardian of November 3, 2001, entitled 'Bin Laden rails against Arab 'infidels' and the UN'. The quotation marks are used here to mark off the original use of the term and indicate to the receiver that this is not the author's term and thus he is detached from Bin Laden's discourse. Another way of marking off other's discourses is the use of hyphens, as in the following extract from an article by Gwynne (2001):

In 1990, Bin Ladin offered to defend Saudi Arabia. To his horror, the royal family instead allowed Americans – infidels – to do the job.

Quoting the exact words of the original producer is another way of manifesting others' discourses. An example of such use is the following statement by Bush, made on October 6, 2005:

Text 14

Al-Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, has called on Muslims to dedicate, quote, their "resources, sons and money to driving the infidels out of their lands"

In the above extract Bush quotes the whole phrase in which infidels was used to clearly signal that these are Bin Laden's exact words. Such a strategy does not leave any doubt whose voice one is listening to and who is meant by the quotation. In his lecture in Germany, the Pope started his talk with a quotation about Islam and Prophet Mohammad authored by a medieval writer. His purpose was allegedly to show his denunciation of wars launched in the name of God in light of the events of 9/11. The Vatican justified the quotation as follows:

Text 15

As for the opinion of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus which he quoted during his Regensburg talk, the Holy Father did not mean, nor does he mean, to make that opinion his own in any way. He simply used it as a means to undertake - in an academic context, and as is evident from a complete and attentive reading of the text - certain reflections on the theme of the relationship between religion and violence in general, and to conclude with a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come.

The Pope's reference to this particular writer was taken as an offence by the majority of Muslims who protested for what the Pope said. A few days later, September 15, the Pope appeared to explain his view, saying he was sorry for the wrong interpretation of his words. He said that he was just quoting somebody and those quotations never reflect his own view on Islam and that he respects Muslims and accepts Islam as an equal religion. A survey conducted by Al-Jazeera showed that the Pope's justification was not accepted in the Islamic world. Commentators in the local media interpreted the Pope's reference as an attack on Muslims and as a form of collaboration with George Bush's policies vis-à-vis the region. A prominent Muslim figure asked, 'if that expression does not reflect the Pope's view, then why did he use it?' These reactions to the Pope's comments show the powerful nature of this discursive practice and the potential misunderstandings it may create.

Politicians and some Christian figures in the West tried to justify the Pope's practice on the ground that he was giving a lecture at a university and that his lecture was in the form of academic research in which he was just reviewing the literature related to the topic. These excuses were not considered convincing as the Pope's review was restricted to one writer who had personal and negative views on Islam. A researcher usually refers to different views, positive and negative, on a certain topic from different resources and perspectives. The issue is that the Pope, in his quest for 14th century references on Islam, could have looked into other sources which describe Islam in a less negative way. That particular quotation raises the question of why the 14th century in particular was referred to in that context and how reliable those 14th writers can be, considering that this was a period of wars between Muslims and crusaders.

5. Conclusion

The analysis above indicates that, in certain historical moments, opposing parties attempt to legitimize their wars against each other in the name of God. This legitimization entails that each party believes that they are the righteous group and therefore their war is a holy one, while others are infidels who, by God-given permission, should be killed. This is in essence a clash between two fundamentalist sides that are equally dangerous and violent. Morality is a relational value. It is subject to ideological and cultural considerations. One needs therefore to study the causes, intentions, and results of the actions of both sides before moralizing the actions of either one.

Language has been always used as a tool to justify wars and acts committed in war: killing innocent people, destroying the infrastructure, violating all ethics, stealing others' resources, and above all, subjecting the defeated party to utter humiliation. All this has been made possible by describing war as a 'holy war' against evil or infidel forces to spread peace, democracy, and freedom. Through the use of crusade against evil, speakers are able to distance themselves from the people being killed, and even project the image that they are saving, rather than killing, innocent women and children. By describing it as a battle between good and evil, war becomes necessary, leaving no doubt that it is waged to eradicate evil.

This study has shown how the exploitation of religion works in political discourse during times of conflict and how different people interact with this kind of discourse. Most of the reactions to religious representation in political discourse have the functions of criticizing or indirectly blaming the original user of those religious intertexts. At the manifest level, prior texts are referred to in the form of quotations. This type of intertextuality is supposed to be an innocent practice whose purpose is to view the topic in question, objectively, from others' perspective to avoid plagiarism. However, the analysis has revealed that the intertexts used in this study, both manifest and constitutive, can indeed be malicious. This occurs when text producers want to express a negative idea about a group of people or an individual by selecting quotations that serve their own purposes. By using quotation marks, a text producer can attack a particular group without having to bear responsibility as they can always claim that they were merely quoting others. In a war context, even the most neutral way of manifest intertextuality, i.e., citations, may prove to be discursive. The producer may use it not for moral ambivalence, but rather to use the quotation to mask an attack on one's adversaries without explicitly appearing to do so.

This study has also revealed that although opposing political actors, in this case George Bush and Bin Laden, have used religion in their political discourse for the same purpose, namely garnering support for their wars, their motivations were completely different. Bin Laden believes that through the combination of religion and politics in his discourse he conforms to his religion which commands him to fight those who occupy, or support occupying, Muslim land. In fighting them he believes he is performing a holy war, or jihad, for which he will be rewarded in the Hereafter. Therefore, his motivation is seen by the majority of Muslims as legitimate.

While the crusades were justified long time ago by the church as a mission to fight 'infidels', Bush has often attempted to justify his own wars through reference to God, saying, for example, that 'freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them' (McGrath 2001). George Bush thus gives himself the right to fight in the name of God, while denying this right to Bin Laden, although his intentions of exercising hegemony over the Middle East have been exposed and criticized by many members of his own discourse community as discussed above.


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About the authors

Kawakib Momani, Muhammad A. Badarneh, Fathi Migdadi are assistant professors in the Department of English at Jordan University of Science and Technology, Jordan. The first author teaches courses in discourse analysis and English for Specific Purposes (ESP). Her research interests include semiotics, political discourse, and bilingualism. The second author teaches courses in pragmatics, stylistics, and ESP. His research interests include pragmatics, stylistics, translation, and rhetoric. The third author teaches courses in general linguistics. His research interests include pragmatics, conversation analysis, and bilingualism.

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Journal of Intercultural Communication, ISSN 1404-1634, issue 22, January 2010.