Monday, May 12, 2008

Words Matter

A handwritten Koran is displayed during an exhibition in Malacca, Malaysia January 12, 2008. You Witness News/Aizuddin Saad

This is going to drive many of you nuts (Robert Spencer certainly isn't happy about it....I suppose he doesn't want to change his site's name to Jihadwatch), but....

‘Jihadist’ among words struck from official lexicon

WASHINGTON | Don’t call them jihadists any more.

And don’t call al-Qaida a movement.

The Bush administration has launched a new front in the war on terrorism, this time targeting language.

Federal agencies, including the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, are telling their employees not to describe Islamic extremists as “jihadists” or “mujahideen,” according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. Lingo like “Islamo-fascism” is out, too.

The reason: Such words may boost support for radicals among Arab and Muslim audiences by giving them a veneer of religious credibility or by offending moderates.

For example, while Americans may understand “jihad” to mean “holy war,” it is in fact a broader Islamic concept of the struggle to do good, says the guidance prepared for diplomats and other officials tasked with explaining the war on terror to the public. Similarly, “mujahideen,” which means those engaged in jihad, must be seen in its broader context.


For the most part, I think this is definitely a good thing, and progress toward winning hearts and minds, and the war of propaganda.

Amy Proctor was the one who first got me to shift my manner of thinking on the issue of "naming the enemy":
we do a disservice the war on terrorism when we refer to acts of terrorism as Jihad. It is not and in order to isolate the terrorists, we need to refer to what it is: Hirabah.

Jihad means to make an effort to overcome difficulty or to struggle. It includes an internal or personal, social and institutional struggle for justice and against oppression and sin. Jihad can not be used to force people to convert or kill non-Muslims. This is contrary to Islamic law.

Hirabah on the other hand is rebellion and terrorism, considered heresy within Islam. Acts of hirabah are capital crimes in Islam. It contains the principle of Jihad but carries out acts of “persuasion” to meet its objective.

Further on, she writes,

When we properly call terrorism hirabah rather than jihad, we alienate terrorists like al-Qaeda from the Muslim population and marginalize their efforts. In doing so, we show consideration for the Muslim religion, no matter what our personal opinions may be on the religion itself, and persuade good Muslims to support the effort against apostates like Osama bin Laden and the rest.

Calling terrorists “jihadists” may be more en vogue than referring to it as hirabah, but we risk legitimizing the likes of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah in the Islamic world if we refer to their terror as jihad. It’s murder, terrorism and hirabah. This is why the war on terror can be won; Muslims want to stop the assault on their religion as much as the rest of us do.

Amy's husband, who is an Army chaplain, has worked hard toward shifting our lexicon, to win the overall war:

I am active duty US Army. I am a senior noncommissioned officer in the Chaplain Corps and have been working for the last 4 years since returning from OIF on establishing a body of knowledge that will equip commanders in OIF with operationally actionable cultural intelligence.
I was at the MNF-I HQs one week ago. Hopefully my remarks will be afforded a modicum of credibility commensurate with my experience.

1. The greatest buttress against radicalized Islam is support for orthodox expressions of it. Forget an all-out war with Islam; that is as absurd as it is impracticable. I recommend in your pilgrimage towards correct syntax, that you dump the demeaning expression "moderate Muslims". As a lapsed Catholic posted above, he is Catholic in self-description but admittedly a 'moderate' Catholic as described by decisive violation of basic tenets of the orthodox faith. Such 'moderates' add nothing to the Church's mission; in fact, they are scandalizers and stumbling blocks to others seeking the way of salvation. Likewise, "moderate Islam" is inherently troublesome and should be rejected as a creation of the MSM.

2. The next greatest weapon against radicalized Islam is building deep and sincere relations with Muslims. This occurs between neighbors over the backyard fence as much as it does between states. It is difficult to hate the completely humanized "other"; in Iraq, we have achieved monumental inroads simply by sticking by our word and committments with our Muslim friends. Believe me, they know we have to find ways to get along. They were the ones who had bombs dropped on them by concerned Americans. They want to get along at least as much as we say we do. As a Soldier, I can tell you the desire for friendship on both sides is palpable.

3. In American politics, polemical rhetoric is often based on obtuse abstractions and not real relations. If it is a requisite of the right to disown Islam, force the arguments into the concrete as quickly as possible. Ask, does that mean I should hate Abbas or Achmed or Fatima who work downstairs in sales? How exactly should I live out this denunciation of Islam in my own hometown? Realistically, we are bound by the Golden Rule to seek out what is best for the Other, even if he/she is a Muslim. That is best concretized by emplary behavior of our own.

4. The majority of the world's Christians and Muslims concur that both traditions worship the One true God. The Pope prayed in a Mosque recently. 138 Islamic scholars recently reached out to the Roman See. Muslims in Baghdad are pleading for their fellow Arabs who are Christians to return from refuge. Deep and scholarly discussions between the communities of faith are underway all over the world. This is the way that has worked over the centuries. Men of sincere prayer find it difficult to use violence and coercion to persuade a fellow religionist.

5. I would venture that when you peel back the layers from those who advocate denunciation of Islam, you may find either those with no actual religious affiliation or active practice of their own, or, a radicalized Christian sect without a mature position on relations to religionists of non-Christian faiths.

As a Roman Catholic and a member of a professional clergy team, I cannot embrace the tenets of Islam that disagree with Christianity; I CAN, however, embrace my Muslim friends as sincere seekers of God. I can purge the hatred from my own thinking and model the religion that I believe in. At the end of the day, we have no option but to learn to live together in this increasingly flatter, smaller global community.

Master Sergeant John Proctor

More from the AP link:

U.S. officials may be “unintentionally portraying terrorists, who lack moral and religious legitimacy, as brave fighters, legitimate soldiers or spokesmen for ordinary Muslims,” said a Homeland Security report titled "Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations from American Muslims." (Sorry, had to remove the link- it's still supposed to be classified)

“Regarding ‘jihad,’ even if it is accurate to reference the term, it may not be strategic because it glamorizes terrorism, imbues terrorists with religious authority they do not have and damages relations with Muslims around the world,” the report says.

Language is critical in the war on terror, said another document, an internal memo titled “Words that Work and Words that Don’t: A Guide for Counterterrorism Communication.”

The memo was approved for diplomatic use this week by the State Department, which plans to distribute a version to all U.S. embassies, officials said.

At least at the top level, it appears to have made an impact. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who once frequently referred to “jihad” in her public remarks, does not appear to have used the word, except when talking about the name of a specific terrorist group, since September.

The memo also draws heavily on the Homeland Security report that examined the way American Muslims reacted to different phrases used by U.S. officials to describe terrorists and recommended ways to improve the message.

Because of religious connotations, that report, released in January and obtained by the AP this week, counseled “caution in using terms such as, ‘jihadist,’ ‘Islamic terrorist,’ ‘Islamist,’ and ‘holy warrior’ as grandiose descriptions.”

“We should not concede the terrorists’ claim that they are legitimate adherents of Islam,” the report said, adding that Osama bin Laden and his adherents fear “irrelevance” more than anything else.

“We must carefully avoid giving bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders the legitimacy they crave, but do not possess, by characterizing them as religious figures, or in terms that may make them seem to be noble in the eyes of some,” it said.

Zawahiri and bin Laden would like nothing better than to galvanize the Islamic world to rise up and join them in their war against the non-Islamic civilizations. Why help them in that, by conceding over to the Islamic terror network, the language of legitimacy?


A DO’S AND DON’TS LIST
Advice from the National Counterterrorism Center:

•Don’t use the term “jihadist,” which has broader religious meanings beyond war, or “mujahideen,” which refers to holy warriors.

•Do say “violent extremist” or “terrorist.”

•Don’t use the term “al-Qaida movement,” because it gives al-Qaida political legitimacy.

•Don’t use “Islamo-fascism” and other terms that could cause religious offense.

•Do use the term “totalitarian.”

•Don’t label groups simply as “Muslim.”

•Do use descriptive terms to define how a group fits into society. For example: South Asian youth and Arab opinion leaders.

•Don’t use “caliphate” when explaining al-Qaida’s goals, as this has positive implications.

I do have some mixed feelings here (I abhor political correctness!), as I have and still do, resort to terms like "Islamo-fascists", depending on the context and audience. I understand its usage (not condemning a religion, but specifying a group within that religion), in the context in which many of us make it, along with similar identification of the enemy. I've been reluctant not to include "Islamic" in describing who it is we are fighting. But as the report says, it may be accurate, but not strategic to continue doing so.

At one time, I think it was useful; but now, I think we all know well enough who it is we are fighting, and can move beyond the usage of terms like "Islamo-fascism", "Islamo-Nazism", etc.

I'd be curious to know, however, what Muslim Americans Chertoff met with. That would give me encouragement, or pause...

Hat tip: Bottomline Upfront

Also blogging:
Linguistic Anthropology

Cross-posted at Flopping Aces, and taking it on the chin

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20 Comments:

Blogger Indigo Red said...

I prefer the term offered Britain's top spy guy: pathetic thugs.

I thought the lexiconic change was good when it was first announced. The reasoning was sound and the reasons were clear.

I was then baffled by the objections from all quarters. It's as if most folks never even read the entire text of the change request. Seems all they saw was some PC garbage and ran with that.

Monday, May 12, 2008 3:36:00 PM  
Blogger Tapline said...

Word, Although you make it sound as if it's OK to refer to an honor killing or terrorism as anyone who does these things are just individuals when done in the name of ones religion. I do not agree with a government issueing orders to it's populance what it shoud and should not say....I'm talking about free speech,,,,FREE SPEECH, not politican correctness. and I read the whole thing. I do not concur with such tripe.....Good Post however.....stay well....

Monday, May 12, 2008 7:38:00 PM  
Blogger Nightcrawler said...

It wasn't so much an edict as a guideline in how to discuss this without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It'd be like rational, moderate Muslims lumping Americans in with the Democrats... I'd be offended!

Monday, May 12, 2008 8:18:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

tapline,

I think you misconstrue the intent of the official change in lexicon. You have the freedom to say what you will; but do you have the wisdom?

As was stated, using "Islamic" as part of a descriptive term such as "Islamo-fascist" might be accurate (it's acknowledged in the document), but not strategically sound. It stands to alienate and confuse those who do not understand that we aren't condemning an entire religion (ignore for a moment, the fact that some of you do condemn the entire religion), but a group within the religion, using the name of Islam, and drawing an interpretation and expression of the religion not shared by all.

Please read through some of my previous posts to understand where I am coming from. Or reread this post. Unfortunately, I removed the link to the PDF official document, because apparently it was leaked onto the 'net, and isn't supposed to be released.

Monday, May 12, 2008 8:29:00 PM  
Blogger Nightcrawler said...

LMAO... WS, you're turning up Top Secret information now? Better watch it, you'll have to testify before congress...

I have no problem changing the language if there is sound logic behind the change. If it helps us win the hearts and minds of the "good" muslims, if it helps de-legitimize al-Qaeda in their eyes, then I'm all for it.

Monday, May 12, 2008 8:56:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Yeah,

Amy Proctor clued me into the document not supposed to be out in the public, as it's still classified.

I'm glad you get it, Michael. I just don't see what's so difficult to understand: bin Laden and company want to convince the entire Muslim world- all 1.5 billion of them- that they are "holy warriors"- jihadists. By calling them what they want to refer to themselves as (even if it's not an inaccurate terminology), we give them the language of legitimacy; because for even peaceful, non-terrorizing Muslims, "jihad" has positive connotations independent of its association to terrorism. We want to marginalize al-Qaeda and terror groups from mainstream Muslims. Attacking the religion of Islam, all we succeed in doing is exactly what Zawahiri wants to convince the Muslim world of: that we are out to persecute them.

Monday, May 12, 2008 9:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the most part, I think this is definitely a good thing

Obviously, Wordsmith, being a fifth columnist, will welcome any change in vocabulary that is advantageous to the enemy.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 9:35:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Hey anon,

I knew I could count on you to show up, still hiding behind anonymity and still being a tool for the Islamic terrorists. Congratulations!

What is advantageous to the enemy, are narrowminded patriots such as yourself, who play right into the hands of the takfiri death cults, such as al-Qaeda.

Way to prolong and expand the long war!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 9:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew I could count on you to show up (...) still being a tool for the Islamic terrorists.

Apparently, Wordsmith missed the fact that I identified him as a fifth columnist precisely because of his remarkably diligent attempts at obscuring clear terminology which help the Islamic terrorists maintain their momentum. Or was Wordsmith perhaps looking into the mirror when he wrote that remark?

What is advantageous to the enemy, are narrowminded patriots such as yourself, who play right into the hands of the takfiri death cults, such as al-Qaeda.

I choose to correctly identify the ideology to which the enemy subscribes, namely the evil ideology of Islam. This is simply a matter of telling the truth, which Wordsmith in this instance seems to dislike. Though an argument (albeit not necessarily a good one) could probably be made that there are good tactical reasons for not doing so, merely telling the truth does in no way imply any kind of "narrowmindedness", nor does it suggest a responsibility for the horrible actions that are made not as a consequence of the statements of "narrowminded patriots", but simply by devout Muslims (aka "Islamic terrorists") practicing their so-called religion.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

It always amuses me when you address me in the third person, as if you were speaking before an audience, rather than to me.

You give quite a performance. Basically, stuck on stupid, failing to evolve your thoughts which is mired in educated bigotry.

Zawahiri and bin Laden applaud those such as yourself. These terrorists fear irrelevancy and marginalization, and what you are engaged in, by condemning the religion as a whole, merely rallies larger numbers of Muslims to their cause. You are going by their playbook, and you will give validity and credibility and religious legitimacy to their takfiri death-cult movement when they try to convince fellow Muslims that we in the West are persecuting Muslims.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 10:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These terrorists fear irrelevancy and marginalization, and what you are engaged in, by condemning the religion as a whole, merely rallies larger numbers of Muslims to their cause.

Such is the power of truth, allegedly, that if I simply point out the nature of Islam by for example referring to the contents of its teachings, larger numbers of Muslims cannot help but rally to the causes of the terrorists. And apparently, this is all my fault...

My guess is that when Wordsmith writes "the religion as a whole", he is not actually referring to Islam, but to all Muslims. Of course, even though Wordsmith fails to see the difference (judging by past exchanges, at least), there is in fact a difference.

For the record, I do not condemn all Muslims as human beings, though I condemn their so-called religion, while appreciating the failure of many Muslims to practice it in full. I believe Muslims would be much better off by leaving the evil cult that poisons their mind. It will be much easier for them to do so if the ongoing Islamization of society is not allowed to continue and for Islam to gain a foothold in our Western societies, which in effect is what Wordsmith is working towards ensuring, even as he probably won't admit it himself.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Such is the power of truth, allegedly, that if I simply point out the nature of Islam by for example referring to the contents of its teachings, larger numbers of Muslims cannot help but rally to the causes of the terrorists. And apparently, this is all my fault...

No; what does potentially rally Muslims to their cause, is if they start buying into the feelings of persecution that Zawahiri wants to convince them of. The oversaturation and hysteric exaggerated coverage of abu Ghraib was disastrous to our efforts in Iraq. That probably radicalized more than few Muslim youths looking for a cause to believe in.

And attitudes toward their faith, such as the one you carry, does nothing to endear you to Muslims who might be on the fence regarding western persecution of Muslims and their faith.



My guess is that when Wordsmith writes "the religion as a whole", he is not actually referring to Islam, but to all Muslims.


Wordsmith says you are correct.

Of course, even though Wordsmith fails to see the difference (judging by past exchanges, at least), there is in fact a difference.

Wordsmith says you are correct.

For the record, I do not condemn all Muslims as human beings, though I condemn their so-called religion, while appreciating the failure of many Muslims to practice it in full.

Your problem is, you want to define Islam for them, based upon your understanding of their faith. And if they don't practice it the way you think they should practice it, then they aren't practicing "true" Islam.

This is counterproductive to COIN and the long war.

It's up to the practitioners to define their religion. There is not just one brand of Islam; there is not just ibn Taymiyyah's beliefs or Sayyid Qutb's interpretation; there is not just al-Qaeda's ideological takfiri death-cult way of Islam. There's also 8 Matthabs of Sunni, Shia and Ibadhi Islam; of traditional Islamic Theology (Ash'arism); of Islamic Mysticism (Sufism); and there are wahhabi, salafi fundamentalists.

They are all practitioners of Islam, but they are not all the same.

I believe Muslims would be much better off by leaving the evil cult that poisons their mind. It will be much easier for them to do so if the ongoing Islamization of society is not allowed to continue and for Islam to gain a foothold in our Western societies, which in effect is what Wordsmith is working towards ensuring, even as he probably won't admit it himself.

What Wordsmith wants to do is win the long war and not broaden it to give legitimacy to the rallying cry of Zawahiri and bin Laden by calling Islam evil, as you do. By alienating many good people through condemnation of their faith as evil. It's a prejudiced stand, based upon educating yourself on a slanted, one-sided perspective of Islam.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 3:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No; what does potentially rally Muslims to their cause, is if they start buying into the feelings of persecution that Zawahiri wants to convince them of.

And if my descriptive statements about the true nature of Islam are enough to make that happen, then most people (ie. those who are not too preoccupied with advocating immediate submission to Islam) should realize that the problem is not me, but the Muslims among us, who will inevitably feel persecuted and become radicalized as a result (or so the story goes).

And attitudes toward their faith, such as the one you carry, does nothing to endear you to Muslims who might be on the fence regarding western persecution of Muslims and their faith.

My "attitudes" are simply that we should acknowledge the nature of Islam and not seek to obscure it. I cannot take any responsibility for the (imagined or real) consequences of what is true.

Your problem is, you want to define Islam for them, based upon your understanding of their faith.

Neither I nor Muslims are in a position to define Islam. In fact, Islam is what it is independently of anyone's wishes and intents, and whether someone is a Muslim is determined not by whether a person calls himself a Muslim, but by whether that person's beliefs and actions conform with the teachings of Islam. It is wrong as Worsdmith asserts that "[i]t's up to the practitioners to define their religion", because it is their practice that determines whether they belong to the religion in the first place! Simply calling oneself a Muslim does not make somebody a Muslim any more than Wordsmith calling his cat a dog makes it a dog. But of course, where would Islam apologists be without some Humpty-Dumpty sophistry...

There is not just one brand of Islam (...)

Well, the problem with Islam is its essence, not secondary characteristics of supposed separate brands of it. Therefore it is irrelevant how many brands of Islam there might be, since anything that is correctly classified as Islam necessarily is evil at its core, or else it's not Islam at all.

What Wordsmith wants to do is win the long war and not broaden it to give legitimacy to the rallying cry of Zawahiri and bin Laden by calling Islam evil, as you do. By alienating many good people through condemnation of their faith as evil.

Those people are given legitimacy by me by the scriptures of Islam. Compared to the "divine" legitimacy they have in the literal words of Allah, my words should matter little.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 8:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, the first sentence of the last paragraph should be:

"Those people are given legitimacy not by me, but by the scriptures of Islam."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 8:36:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

And if my descriptive statements about the true nature of Islam are enough to make that happen, then most people (ie. those who are not too preoccupied with advocating immediate submission to Islam) should realize that the problem is not me, but the Muslims among us, who will inevitably feel persecuted and become radicalized as a result (or so the story goes).


Most Muslims don't become "radicalized", and turn to terrorism, nor support what the likes of al-Qaeda are doing.

And others can endure your "insult" to their faith, without flying off the handle.

But you will have those who will be influenced by attitudes like yours, and be pushed in the wrong direction. Of these, some will be directly influenced by the "radicalization" factor inherent in the Koran; but others, irregardless of religious denomination, would also feel persecuted by your words, and find comfort in rallying to a cause. Especially young people, who are idealistic and looking to change and influence the world. This happens amongst many groups throughout history, and is not exclusive to followers of Islam. They are ripe to be preyed upon and deceived by cults. And Islamic terror groups have cult-like methods and recruiting tactics: separation from family and estrangement from friends, indoctrination, and breaking down previously-held beliefs.




My "attitudes" are simply that we should acknowledge the nature of Islam and not seek to obscure it. I cannot take any responsibility for the (imagined or real) consequences of what is true.


Part of me tends to agree with you; but you're missing the COIN strategy and the long war strategy that is being pursued by the U.S. government.

Attitudes like yours does have influence, just as mine do. Whose approach to dealing with the dangers of radical Islam will promote the greater good in winning this war, though? I believe that mine is more productive than yours.



Neither I nor Muslims are in a position to define Islam. In fact, Islam is what it is independently of anyone's wishes and intents, and whether someone is a Muslim is determined not by whether a person calls himself a Muslim, but by whether that person's beliefs and actions conform with the teachings of Islam. It is wrong as Worsdmith asserts that "[i]t's up to the practitioners to define their religion", because it is their practice that determines whether they belong to the religion in the first place! Simply calling oneself a Muslim does not make somebody a Muslim any more than Wordsmith calling his cat a dog makes it a dog. But of course, where would Islam apologists be without some Humpty-Dumpty sophistry...


anon cracks me up!

Wordsmith understands how you're seeing the issue; and he also sees the limitation to your understanding. There's some truth in what you are saying; but the converse also holds true. The value and worth of any religion IS defined by those who practice it. Otherwise, there'd be only one form of Christianity; there'd be no sunni or shia. In other endeavours, no two schools of martial art think exactly alike, nor agree on the same interpretations of the art and what the Founder may have meant or wanted. He can leave behind all the writings in the world, and his "followers" will extract different interpretations from it.

Your insistence is based upon your siding with the Islamists and Qutbists who have a fundamentalist strict constructionist literal extrapolation of the Koran. You choose to dismiss any other Muslim as not a true believer of Islam, because your notion of Islam is just as close-minded as that of the Zawahiris who do not tolerate diverging interpretations of Islam.




There is not just one brand of Islam (...)

Well, the problem with Islam is its essence, not secondary characteristics of supposed separate brands of it. Therefore it is irrelevant how many brands of Islam there might be, since anything that is correctly classified as Islam necessarily is evil at its core, or else it's not Islam at all.


There ya go again. Calling a person's religion "evil at its core" is not going to win over hearts and minds. Good Muslims are not going to "wake up" and say, "Oh, anon has a point: Let's give up the evil religion because we ourselves are not evil."

There is nothing productive in your closeminded and hostile views toward a faith practiced by 1.5 billion of the world's population. All you succeed in doing is alienate, and give aid and comfort to our real enemies; you are doing their propaganda for them.


Those people are given legitimacy not by me, but by the scriptures of Islam


Islam as how YOU choose to see it; not Islam as it's practiced by many of the world's Muslims.

Compared to the "divine" legitimacy they have in the literal words of Allah, my words should matter little.

Your inability to see beyond your own self and adamant views are your limitation.

You're no different than any religious nut who insists in looking at only the way he chooses to see the world, and dismisses any divergent views to the contrary.

I know a number of Christians like that, who think they are the only true Christians because of how they see the Bible. But they are so blind, they are insistent that they aren't interpreting the Bible, but are in fact "reading it the right way." "It is others who are interpreting, what's not there." Meanwhile, there are other Christians who hold the same beliefs about themselves and other Christians!

anon needs to look outside the limitations of his own prejudices and see himself and his views with new eyes.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 10:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of these, some will be directly influenced by the "radicalization" factor inherent in the Koran; but others, irregardless of religious denomination, would also feel persecuted by your words, and find comfort in rallying to a cause.

And to prevent these people from rallying to a sinister cause, Wordsmith in effect suggests that we should refrain from mentioning the true nature of Islam, or else it just might manifest itself...

This happens amongst many groups throughout history, and is not exclusive to followers of Islam. They are ripe to be preyed upon and deceived by cults.

But oddly enough, there is a common element about the behaviour of those who are recruited to Islamic terror, namely the fact that they start practicing... Islam!

And Islamic terror groups have cult-like methods and recruiting tactics

That is natural, because Islam is a cult.

The value and worth of any religion IS defined by those who practice it. Otherwise, there'd be only one form of Christianity

No, the followers of a religion merely implement it, and it is their adherence to it and their practice of it which determine how what the religion is manifests itself at any point in time. Obviously, Islam doesn't have a good track record in that regard...

Your insistence is based upon your siding with the Islamists and Qutbists who have a fundamentalist strict constructionist literal extrapolation of the Koran.

I'm not siding with anyone, I merely acknowledge what is true. If the so-called "Islamists and Qutbists" were actually wrong, then I would object to the correctness of their views, but fact is, they are not. And so I think people need to realize this sooner rather than later.

You choose to dismiss any other Muslim as not a true believer of Islam, because your notion of Islam is just as close-minded as that of the Zawahiris who do not tolerate diverging interpretations of Islam.

Again, I dismiss them because they are not true believers (or at least not true practitioners) of Islam, not because of personal notions.

There ya go again. Calling a person's religion "evil at its core" is not going to win over hearts and minds.

Nor is that the purpose of my identifying Islam as evil, if Wordsmith thought so.

The only way to win over hearts and minds of Muslims is to convert to Islam, which at least for me is not an option (though for all I know it might be for Wordsmith).

Good Muslims are not going to "wake up" and say, "Oh, anon has a point: Let's give up the evil religion because we ourselves are not evil."

No, of course not, because being good Muslims they would themselves be evil, and so would not draw that conclusion. However, the bad Muslims (ie. those who do not practice Islam to any significant extent, and who therefore might be good people) might be persuaded to leave Islam by hearing the truth about it. That is one of the purposes behind the site Faith Freedom.

Islam as how YOU choose to see it; not Islam as it's practiced by many of the world's Muslims.

No, Islam as Islam is. Naturally, Islam cannot be credited for the failure of significant number of Muslims to practice it, and so I choose to deal with Islam as it is instead of the actions and inactions of demographic groups.

Your inability to see beyond your own self and adamant views are your limitation.

I think part of my disagreement with Wordsmith is that I view language as a tool to describe reality, whereas Wordsmith views language as a tool to transform reality. However, since Wordsmith's approach does not in fact transform reality, but only obscures it, his approach is counterproductive, as it leaves the actual reality intact while reducing our ability to deal with it.

(Since this discussion could probably go on forever, I think I'll draw the line here.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

And to prevent these people from rallying to a sinister cause, Wordsmith in effect suggests that we should refrain from mentioning the true nature of Islam, or else it just might manifest itself...

You're half right. There's a segment of the Muslim population that has a low tolerance level and an anger management issue.

When it manifests itself, sure, call 'em out on it. But don't intentionally lash back out at a broader spectrum of people. It'd be like liberals in this country acting stupid; and instead of saying libs are stupid, because they are American born and American raised, you lash out and say all Americans are stupid.

When the Danish cartoon controversy exploded, Hugh Hewitt reported on the ridiculousness of it all; but at the same time, he had the common sense of decency and respect not to publish the cartoons on his blog, because many Muslims do find them offensive, including peaceful ones.

Intentionally trying to rile people up and being in-your-face offensive is just asking for whatever consequences you instigate and generate.

Condemning a religion that is practiced by many good people only stands to alienate those good people. They're not going to drop their religion and say, "Ulp! How right you are!"

If Islam is a false religion, it won't need you to point it out.



But oddly enough, there is a common element about the behaviour of those who are recruited to Islamic terror, namely the fact that they start practicing... Islam!


And I agree. Dr. Jasser agrees, as well as other Muslims like him. But they aren't about to give up their faith to appease the likes of you. What is needed is reformation and an update to modernity- and yes, it can still be Islam. Islam reformed itself under wahhabis; it can reform for the better or for ill. I understand you think that any change will make it no longer Islam. But I disagree. Change and evolution is a natural state of life, no matter how much you cling to traditions. Islam is already not the same thing to all Muslim practitioners, in all periods of history.


That is natural, because Islam is a cult.


Islam is a major world religion and doesn't fit all the criteria needed to label it a cult.


No, the followers of a religion merely implement it, and it is their adherence to it and their practice of it which determine how what the religion is manifests itself at any point in time.


Only half true. It works both ways. The moment anything is created, be it a school of thought, religion, or discipline, once you have two students learn from "the master", they will impart their own personal expression and interpretation, biases, notions to what they've been "taught", and they will impart that on to their students/followers, who will not all come away with the same exact understanding. All followers (and teachers) will never agree on everything regarding their chosen religion.



I'm not siding with anyone, I merely acknowledge what is true.


And I call BS. You are siding with your opinion of Islam as how you understand it. Not how it is. You are entitled to your opinion of the facts. But that's all it is: your opinion.


If the so-called "Islamists and Qutbists" were actually wrong, then I would object to the correctness of their views, but fact is, they are not. And so I think people need to realize this sooner rather than later.

Sayyid Qutb, like you, has his own understanding of Islam. It doesn't mean he had the correct understanding (but it can be said he had a harmful one). Throughout Islamic history, there have been instances where heretic sectarian groups sprung up with cult-like recruiting tactics, but who were eventually marginalized by the Muslim majority mainstream of the time. The Kharijites for instance, were radical dissidents of Islam who assassinated the 4th Caliph Ali.

Your insistence that al-Qaeda is the voice of true Islam would be like claiming gnostics were the one and only true voice of Christianity.

Who are the legitimate heirs of Islam? Sunni or Shia? Or are both legitimate expressions of Islamic theology? If wahhabism was a reformation movement, then they've diverged from original Islam. Yet you seem to want to believe only the worst expressions of Islam are representative of true Islam.


Again, I dismiss them because they are not true believers (or at least not true practitioners) of Islam, not because of personal notions.


You confuse your own opinions for fact.




Nor is that the purpose of my identifying Islam as evil, if Wordsmith thought so.


Oh, it's obvious you have no intentions of winning hearts and minds, Spencer Roberts, or whatever anon wants to call himself these days.


The only way to win over hearts and minds of Muslims is to convert to Islam, which at least for me is not an option (though for all I know it might be for Wordsmith).


My Muslims friends have never tried to convert me; but my Christian friends have invited me to Church and Bible studies. Sorry, but your narrowmindedness about Muslims is bigoted at best.


No, of course not, because being good Muslims they would themselves be evil, and so would not draw that conclusion.


What's evil is your bigotry.

However, the bad Muslims (ie. those who do not practice Islam to any significant extent, and who therefore might be good people) might be persuaded to leave Islam by hearing the truth about it. That is one of the purposes behind the site Faith Freedom.

The premise of your definitions is flawed, so try again.


No, Islam as Islam is.


Actually, bloviating zeppelin has a better expression, which is "Islam is, as Islam does".

and terrorism is a part of that, to be sure.

As well as anger management problems.

But not all Muslims are terrorists and intolerant, demanding your submission and Sharia Law.

Naturally, Islam cannot be credited for the failure of significant number of Muslims to practice it, and so I choose to deal with Islam as it is instead of the actions and inactions of demographic groups.

You choose to define Islam by the actions of its minority. Got it.



I think part of my disagreement with Wordsmith is that I view language as a tool to describe reality, whereas Wordsmith views language as a tool to transform reality. However, since Wordsmith's approach does not in fact transform reality, but only obscures it, his approach is counterproductive, as it leaves the actual reality intact while reducing our ability to deal with it.


Again you're only half correct. In order for your premise to make full sense, we'd have to concede certain assumptions about your beliefs; but they are flawed, and consequently, so too is the premise of your statement.

Your "language as a tool" isn't describing reality, but your mind's interpretation of the reality.

But you are right that I also wish to use language for the purposes of influence and winning the long war.



(Since this discussion could probably go on forever, I think I'll draw the line here.)


Really? I just assumed you have no life. This is based upon our previous long-winded waste of time "discussions".

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Wordsmith wrote:Actually, bloviating zeppelin has a better expression, which is "Islam is, as Islam does".

and terrorism is a part of that, to be sure.

As well as anger management problems.

But not all Muslims are terrorists and intolerant, demanding your submission and Sharia Law.


Which is also a way of saying if "Islam is as Islam does", then when my Muslim friends donate to charitable givings and follows the tenets of Islam as they practice it, then they too represent "Islam is as Islam does", for they find their source of goodness from their religious faith.

You know, your inflammatory libel toward me as a "5th column" and "maybe wordsmith wants to convert" remarks are in the same misguided spirit as your opinionated assertions defining Islam and those who practice it but don't fit neatly into your prejudiced, narrowminded views, and that does nothing to promote civil discourse.

Thursday, May 15, 2008 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

This is disagreement that does make strong points- and it comes by way of Dr. Jasser's AIFD.

I figured he probably would not agree with the USG approach, based upon his own use of the word "jihad", and past writings.

One prominent Muslim American who wasn't consulted is physician M. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. In response to an e-mail from the IPT about the memos, Jasser said the suggested changes could diminish American understanding of the ideological motivations behind those who threaten our security:

It is interesting that the only venues in which this nomenclature is even a question is in the West, where Muslims are a minority and Islamists are able to deceive the majority or just live in complete denial. In Muslim majority nations the radicals call themselves Muslims, Islamists, and Jihadists in Arabic and every other language with little time spent admonishing society not to call them what they call themselves.

CERTAINLY PIOUS loyal American Muslims will be frustrated with the inappropriate use of the name of Islam and "jihad" in the militant causes by these radicals around the world. But that frustration should be directed toward frontal Muslim anti-Islamist and anti-militant causes and movements. Denying that considerable movements of radical Muslims exist around the world which exploit our religion and truly believe that their barbarism is "jihad" will only empower them more and delay the inevitable conflict within our faith community over "whose Islam, which Islam." For the USG to paternally dismiss the self-described nomenclature of "jihadists" and "Islamists" is to in fact embark into a realm which really is an internal struggle within the consciousness of the Muslim community. We should call the terrorists what they call themselves. Once any Muslim, let alone non-Muslims, begins to determine who is and who is not qualified to define "jihad," "Muslim," or "Islam" they are creating a clergy and a "church" with a communication and excommunication process. That is exactly what the likes of Bin Laden and other radical Islamists want.

"Words matter," the DHS report says. They sure do. That's why hiding the very language and ideological justification used by terrorists from the American people is misguided at best. It is why a soft-pedaled lexicon from unnamed experts and Islamist activists is counter productive.

Trying to isolate terrorists is a clear goal for the government. But moderate, er, mainstream Muslims shouldn't need us to serve as language police to protect them from those who use their religion to terrorize the world.

Friday, May 16, 2008 7:06:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Oh, I'm good:

You guys can call them whatever the hell you want- so long as we know who it is we are referring to. It’s squabbling over minutia, although I still think that not referring to Zawahiri and his merry band by what they want to be called, is strategic to “going that extra mile” to counter Islamist propaganda against us.

Look at it this way: What if the “Islamic Holy Warriors” wanted to be called some name in Arabic that didn’t mean “holy warrior” like mujahadeen, or “jihadist”, but instead wanted to be called a term that translated as “freedom fighter”? Can you not see the value in not calling them “freedom fighter” in their own language, but calling them “terrorists” in their own language (hirabahists)?

Again, it’s not about being “politically correct” and “not offending” and fear of “naming the enemy”. It’s about marginalizing the legitimacy of al Qaeda and other Islamic terror groups, for the sake of winning the Long War.

steve wrote:

That’s the problem - they ARE living by the Koran.

So, too, are the ones who don’t engage in terrorist activity and Islamist intolerance for those outside of their religion. Of course, I know the ones of you out there who don’t share my view will point out that it’s the Islamists who are living by the Koran, with the peaceful Muslims and secularized Muslims, who are not being “good Muslims”, but behaving more like apostates.

The problem, as I see it, is that even though there are no priests in Islam, there are Islamic scholars and clerics who preach political Islam and a worldview that is in fact dangerous to outsiders of the religion. They are far too influential, when there isn’t supposed to be an intermediary between a Muslim and Allah.

And groups like al Qaeda draw inspiration, motivation, and ideological validation from modern reformists, like Sayyid Qutb and Dr. Fadl (reference my recent post. They are writing works that are influential to the “jihadi” mentality, justifying violence, even against fellow Muslims (”involuntary martyrs“), as much as from anything they can cherrypick from the Koran to justify their aberrant behavior toward human civilization.

Friday, May 30, 2008 11:35:00 AM  

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