When Islam stops producing 99% of the terrorists in the world, we might think about it you lying idiot. At a conference to combat radicalization held last week in Toronto, a prominent local imam called on the federal government to stop using language linking Islam to terror.
National Post “Lead by example, change the rhetoric, and stop saying these words. They hurt,” said Dr. Hamid Slimi, former chairman of the Canadian Council of Imams and current chairman of the Muslim seminary, the Canadian Centre for Deen Studies.
The plea, met with overwhelming applause, referred specifically to remarks made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper weeks before that characterized mosques as potential spaces of radicalization. Several days later, U.S. President Barack Obama, whose government has refused to use words such as “Islamic” or “jihad” to characterize violent extremism, found himself under fire for taking the opposite side of the semantic battle.
“What’s wrong with this man that he can’t stand up and say there’s a part of Islam that’s sick?” former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani reportedly said, after the president defended his government’s position this week at a White House summit on combating extremism.
“We are not at war with Islam,” Mr. Obama said. “We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”
While the commitment to combat extremism is undeniable on both sides of the border, the debate over just what language to use — and whether or not it contributes to the problem — is raging as fiercely as ever.
Many Canadian Muslims are unnerved by the government’s use of the language of Islam to describe terror and see it as stigmatizing.
In the Qur’an, the term “jihad” means exerting oneself in a difficult task such as debating, family struggles or armed conflict, says Sheik Aarij Anwer of Khalid Bin Al-Walid Mosque in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke.
He calls the use of the term jihadism to describe terror “careless,” saying it draws an inaccurate link from “irrational violence” to theology — and implicates all Muslims in violent extremism.
Clothing terror in Islamic terms “has skewed the public’s perceptions of Canadian Muslims as some kind of dangerous and ‘un-Canadian’ group and reinforces stereotypes of the Muslims as some kind of fifth column and whose loyalty is suspect,” said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
But overlooking the religious roots of groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq & Al-Sham (ISIS) poses another serious problem, say others.
“By trying to de-link Islam from Islamic terrorism, [Mr. Obama] is engaging in an act of deception and self-deception,” said Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Ethics & Public Policy Center and a member of three past Republican administrations. “In order to defeat an enemy you need to understand the nature of the enemy you face.”
Michael Jackson Bonner, a historian of Iran at the Paris-based research group Projet CTESIPHON, agrees.
“Disguising the threat of militant Islam under the cover of ‘violent extremism’ makes Obama seem soft on [ISIS] and its allies,” he said.
“[ISIS] calls itself Islamic; its territory is called a ‘caliphate;’ its leader is a ‘caliph.’ ”
The group also draws on the Qur’an and other texts of Islam to justify its actions and convince new recruits its version of Islam is more authentic than the rest, Mr. Jackson Bonner points out.
While Canadian government officials haven’t shied away from using the term jihad — in a statement before the White House conference, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said, “The international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada and its allies” — a 2012 report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police questioned its use.
“Terms like ‘Islamic terrorism,’ ‘Islamist terrorism,’ ‘Jihadism’ and ‘Islamo-fascism’ succeed only in conflating terrorism with mainstream Islam, thereby casting all Muslims as terrorists or potential terrorists,” said the report, Words make Worlds.
However, the RCMP has never issued an official directive on the language. It said in a statement it has a “bias-free” policy, but does not “issue specific guidance about such language use.”
As for the government’s approach, Mr. Jackson Bonner says Mr. Harper’s choice of words indicate he has been “firmer and more realistic” than Mr. Obama’s, avoiding the traps of political correctness.
“We simply cannot portray [ISIS] as anything other than a fanatical Muslim group whose doctrines must be understood in order to be defeated,” he said. “Right now what matters most is destroying it.”
Below Stats on Islamic terrorism from The Religion of Peace
* Honor killings appear on the list, but are not included in the counter