This book asks the critical question, how did we get here, to this place of hijab bans and outlawed minarets, secret renditions of enemy combatants, Abu Ghraib, and GTMO? It is not simply a result of September 11, 2001, Madrid 2004, or London 2005, nor a culmination of events of the past decade or the past century. Terrorist attacks, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the increased movement of Muslim immigrants into northern and western Europe, and the visibility of Islam, in general have contributed to a voicing of "the Muslim problem." However, these concerns represent old anxieties that lie within a multiplicity of times and spaces on the pages of manuscripts and canvases of paintings, in works of great drama, poetry, and fiction, within travel diaries and government documents, and on the screens of movie theaters. To find the answer to the question posed here, we must look at numerous fields of cultural production; there, we find a vision of Islam that is both familiar and unsettling. Within it, we must seek what is common. What is common is the Muslim monster.
The history of monsters is a subject addressed in several disciplines, among them history, theology, and religious studies. In this study, I will argue that imaginary Muslim ,monsters have determined the construction of the Muslim in Western thought. At times, these constructions have involved fantasies about Jewish and African bodies; ,at other times, they have reacted to anxieties surrounding categories beyond race-in particular, those related to religion, gender, and sexuality. To be clear, I am interested here in raising an awareness of these creatures-demons, giants, cannibals, vampires, zombies, and other monsters-that can help us understand the status of Muslims today as stock characters in the Western imaginary landscape. The character of the homicidal terroristic Muslim stalks the Western social imaginary in print media, television, and film, but he has ancestors.