Communication ETDs


Soumia Dhar

Publication Date



My dissertation addresses two fundamental problems confronting most Islamist organizations: (a) their monolithic treatment by Western advocates of secular and democratic change, who by default associate Islamism with extremism; and (b) their struggle to function as unencumbered civil society actors and legitimate political entities in authoritarian political societies. In that endeavor, I carry out an ideological analysis of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's (MB) English-language rhetoric in its website, Ikhwanweb: (a) to interpret the worldview manifest in its cyber rhetoric, and identify the rhetorical strategies that support this worldview; and b) to examine Ikhwanweb's potential as a tool for counterpublic expression under President Hosni Mubarak's authoritarian regime. My analysis unearths a Counterpublic Cyber Islamic worldview characterized by endemic dialectical tensions. These dialectics point to four core elements: (a) distrust towards the Hosni Mubarak regime, and Western agents who aid authoritarian governments; (b) the need to be valued--respected, considered equals, understood without prejudices, and acknowledged despite differences--by Western agents; (c) the significance of caution in its online communications; and (d) the flux resulting from its efforts at transitioning into an organization with an Islamic essence and democratic aspirations. Through the paradigms--show of support, portrayal of opposition, and display of contradiction--the Egyptian MB rhetoric effectively conjures this worldview. These paradigms are demonstrated through the rhetorical tactics--consubstantiation, resource sharing, testimony, epithet, negative other-presentation, action over substance, generalization, implication, and antithesis. Based on these findings I assert that the Egyptian MB has genuine democratic intentions. Inherent in its worldview is a need for "˜Islamic reformulation' and an effort at becoming an entity within the Egyptian society that can counter authoritarianism, promote human rights, and establish a system of governance based on democratic ideals, yet preserve its Islamic ethos. In addition, a major success of using Ikhwanweb is in the Egyptian MB's ability to reach out to the Western world. The intent is to apprise prejudiced agents in the West that Islamic organizations are not inherently extremist entities, and to disapprove Western agents' support for authoritarian regimes, which despite being secular neither support democracy nor foster robust civil societies.




Islamism, Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt, Counterpublic, Rhetoric, Ideology, Democracy, Islam

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Oetzel, John

Second Advisor

Foss, Karen

First Committee Member (Chair)

Collier, Mary Jane

Second Committee Member

Wood, Richard

Third Committee Member

Voll, John