Demonizing ISIL and defending Muslims: Australian Muslim citizenship and Tony Abbott's 'death cult' rhetoric

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In the lead-up to Australia committing military resources and personnel to the coalition opposing the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL), Prime Minister Tony Abbott consistently categorized the al-Qaeda splinter group as a death cult. Examining Abbott s official rhetoric on ISIL and the threat it poses to Australia and the world, this article argues that his use of the term death cult reflects patterns in Western political demonology and demonizing enemies, namely, creating adversaries as monsters by highlighting the atrocities they commit in order to garner support for (often lethal) actions against them. In traditional political demonology, establishment representatives often target minority or marginal groups as these pariahs. However, in demonizing ISIL, Abbott deliberately made distinctions between it and its members and the majority of Muslims, including Australian Muslims, and utilized political demonology differently. In so doing, he affirmed this religious minority s status within the parameters of Australian citizenship. This is indeed commendable. However, Abbott rarely mentioned Muslims outside of references to terrorism. Despite the fact that Abbott acknowledges that only a comparative handful of Muslims are indeed violent, he has not yet fully engaged with the broader notions of Australian Muslims contributions to Australian society and their citizenship. (c) 2015, (c) 2015 University of Birmingham.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237 - 252
Number of pages16
JournalIslam and Christian-Muslim Relations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Cult
  • death cult
  • Islam in Australia
  • political demonology
  • Tony Abbott

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