The Right Kind of “Islam”: News media representations of US-Saudi relations during the Cold War

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3 Scopus citations


Scholarship on the representation of Islam in the media has rightly focused on its negative dimensions, particularly since the events of 9/11. However, “Islam” has not always been a negative construct. During the Cold War, the United States sought to promote “Islam” as a bulwark against secular nationalism. Saudi Arabia was central to this policy. In this paper, I study the coverage of the US–Saudi policy of harnessing Islam to serve larger political agendas in five news media outlets—The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, National Review, and The Nation. I focus on two pivotal moments: (1) the Eisenhower Doctrine of 1957 when the US Islam policy was crystalized; and (2) the era of the Saudi monarch King Faisal, when the policy was instituted. My analysis of several hundred news media articles, editorials, and op-eds shows that while the coverage is contradictory, lapsing sometimes into Orientalist frames, overall Saudi Arabia is consistently presented as embodying the right kind of “Islam.” I argue further that “Islam” as a short-hand to designate the Middle East entered US media discourse in the 1960s, and that its meaning has evolved to suit shifting US foreign policy objectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1079-1097
Number of pages19
JournalJournalism Studies
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jun 11 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication


  • Cold War
  • Islam
  • Islamic unity
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United States
  • journalism
  • news
  • political Islam


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