I wrote several months ago about the inclnation – growing in popularity – to change the description of Islam-inspired Terrorism Anti-Islamic Behavior to something other than jihad, and correspondingly, those acting in this “Un-Islamic” way as something other than jihadi’s, mujahideen, etc. Not that anyone saw it, but if one did, one might recall the term hirabah.
I’ve now seen several posts at JW on this subject – that is, what to call these extremists militants uh, bad guys, beginning with this one from only 4 days ago (“Words matter”: Homeland Security rolls out newspeak campaign, cautions against use of terms like “jihadists,” “Islamic terrorists,” “Islamists” and “holy warriors”), culminating in this one today “Spencer: War On Terror Ends?”. In a nutshell, our enlightened leaders in Washington have decided, definitively now, that our use of these terms is actually giving legitimacy to the miscreants-we-can-not-name perpetrating acts-we-can-not-name.
What is this all about? First, Muslims are offended by “War on Terror” because they see it as a “War on ISLAM“. We’re only spending our precious security resources in surveilling Muslims (allegedly). The prisoners in Guantanamo…they’re all Muslims. It’s obvious, right? Second, as I mentioned above, we’re giving the world the impression – by our use of the same religion-couched terms that the terrorists use – that we agree that they’re justified, that they really ARE fighting for Allah and will be rewarded according to their heroic deeds. You see, Jihad is a GOOD thing in Islam…it just doesn’t mean what they (and we) are saying it means.
Let’s think about this (a novel concept, I know). If, in the last 7 years, more than 11,000 attacks on innocents had been committed by the International Fundy Church of Bob (with the bulk of those attacks being justified, in their minds, by their religious beliefs), isn’t it merely PRUDENCE that would suggest that the Bobbians be scrutinized more closely than the rest of the general public? And, what sense would it make (for US) to decide that TRUE Bobbians don’t act this way (the holy texts notwithstanding), and then to call the dastardly ones “Anti-Bobbians”, or perhaps Stevians? Their acts of defending and expanding the faith aren’t Bobardic, they’re just criminal – again, irrespective of a LONG history of similar behavior that at one time was just fine with all the Bobbian scholars, theologians, theorists, and practitioners…and still is in many parts of the world. If the American government, or British, or French, or Canadian, uses their terminology (these Bobarians), does that REALLY make these criminals more legitimate than they were before we started taking notice? Knowing, of course, that Bobbians have no use for the opinions of Cawfers (that’s non-believers to you uninitiated). If we start calling them Stevians, does that de-legitimize them to those who currently esteem these Bobardic martyrs? Good Grief, are we REALLY so self-important?
Look…they’re criminals, indisputably (at least by most Western laws). But not acknowledging the ideology that drives them is not helping in the fight against them. No one complains when we refer to Marxist or Maoist “rebels”. And if we refer to them that way, are we then saying that ALL Marxists or Maoists (or whatever) are violent thugs? Obviously not.
Someone who is overly sensitive of oblique criticism is usually insecure and/or trying to hide some vulnerability or shortcoming. Caving in to their demands for coddling their feelings does them no favors (it assists in keeping them away from facing, and dealing with, criticisms and consequently from improving and growing), and it minimizes LEGITIMATE security concerns among the rest of the populace.
As I said last time: Call a spade a spade, call a pirate a pirate, call a jihadist (one struggling for Allah, violently or otherwise) a jihadist. If you can’t name your enemy, you can’t know your enemy…and if you don’t know your enemy, you’re lost.
UPDATE: Raymond Ibrahim over at American Thinker weighs in on this very topic.
Would a Jihadi by Any Other Name Smell as Foul?
[A] NYT article suggests that,
“If we want to say what we mean, what terms better describe [al] Qaeda members and other violent extremists? ‘Muharib’ or the more colloquial ‘hirabi’ or ‘hirabist’ would be good places to start. ‘Hirabah,’ the base word, is a term for barbarism or piracy. Unlike ‘jihad,’ which grants honor, ‘hirabah’ brings condemnation; it involves unlawful violence and disorder.”
Now, as a native Arabic speaker, I regret to say that usage of these terms — that is, Americans trying to be at once politically-correct and descriptive, in, of all languages, Arabic — is, alas, somewhat comedic. I further suspect that Arabs, especially al-Qaeda types, would find it hilarious and consistent with their interpretations of wishy-washy Americans, who go to great lengths to learn a language only to censor themselves and compromise their precision in that same language, all so they can appear the “nice guy.”
Which leads to a final point: Arabs and Muslims are not waiting around for Americans or their government — that is, infidels — to define Islam for them, much less to confer Islamic legitimacy or condemnation on al-Qaeda through the use of subtle word-games. Calling this or that a “hirabi” or “jihadi” is not about to make any great impression on them, since only an authoritative Islamic entity (e.g., Cairo’s al-Azhar university) is qualified to determine such matters. Thus the US government would do well to worry less about which words will better humor the Arab/Muslim world, and worry more about providing its citizenry with accurate and meaningful terminology.