Islamophobia and the brand of Osama: What’s in a name? What’s in an image?

Philipp O. AMOUR


The terrorist attacks in the United States and certain European countries on and after 9/11 have had profound implications for the ordinary Muslims living in these countries. Islamophobia emerged and was often adopted as mere custom. In this article, I bring Middle Eastern studies’ approaches to Islamophobia into dialogue with the marketing and branding literature through a critical assessment of the brand name Osama (bin Laden). In the process, I survey the major effects of Islamophobia on Muslims living in the West, observing restrictions in public and formal life. By engaging empirical research and theoretical frameworks, I argue that Osama bin Laden as a strategy conceptualiser and a practitioner (i.e., a militant jihadist) served as a brand that was functional for al-Qaida. The brand image of ordinary Muslims became related to a continuing identification with Osama bin Laden, whose negative public image established an umbrella image for Muslims in general and for the given name Osama in particular, regardless of the personhood of ordinary citizens, with subsequent harmful repercussions.

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