BY TAWFIK HAMID
Monday, May 19th 2008, 4:00 AM
Recently, the Bush administration opened up a sad new front in the war on
terrorism: a battle against words. Yes, the federal government has begun a
concerted effort to make certain terms effectively off-limits in official
communications. It’s all included in a new memo prepared by the Extremist
Messaging Branch of the National
<http://www.nydailyn ews.com/topics/ National+ Counter+Terroris m+Center>
Counter Terrorism Center, called “Words that Work and Words that Don’t: A
Guide for Counterterrorism Communication. ”
“It’s not what you say but what they hear,” says the memo, in bold, italic
Among the verboten (or think-twice- before-you- say-them) words: “Jihadist”
and “Mujahedeen” (which should be replaced by “violent extremist” or
“terrorist”) and “Islamo-fascism. ”
In the eyes of the feds, the use of such terminology boosts support for
radicals by giving them an air of religious credibility, and turning off
moderate Muslims who might otherwise sympathize with our anti-terror cause.
As a Muslim reformer – who once counted himself among the world’s Islamists
and jihadists before turning away from terrorism and toward liberalism – I
consider this a tragically flawed understanding of the war on terrorism in
which we are now engaged.
The real way to strengthen moderate Muslims in their fight against the
radicals is to spotlight radical teachings and flush out those who believe
Among the most important qualities of any professional are honesty,
objectivity and forthrightness – the ability to determine and present facts
as they are, irrespective of the preconceived notions of any particular
This is especially true in war: define your enemy correctly, and you will
rally legitimate allies to your side. Blur what a battle is about and, stuck
in the muddle, you are bound to lose.
Yes, the word “jihad” has several, including some peaceful, meanings – but
that doesn’t change the fact that most authoritative Islamic texts and
systems of jurisprudence maintain that its primary meaning is “warfare to
subjugate the world to Islam.” Closely allied with this predominant concept
of is the threefold choice given to infidels: conversion, submission
and tribute or death. And it is simply a fact that , as taught by Sunni
Islam’s four schools of jurisprudence, is either a war to defend Muslims or
to impose Islam on non-Muslims.
It may be uncomfortable to admit these facts – and doing so may run certain
risks. But it is true, and the costs of ignoring reality are far higher than
the benefits of glossing over it.
Islamists are not waiting for “infidel” Americans to define
they defined it themselves, a very long time ago. If Muslim leaders wish to
insist that the word refers primarily to a peaceful struggle against the
self, they have that option. Let them clearly and publicly denounce the
current doctrine and establish a new one. That’s the answer – not redefining
Where does the word game end? Should we also stop calling militant
organizations – such as <http://www.nydailyn ews.com/topics/ Egypt> ‘s
“Islamic <http://www.nydailyn ews.com/topics/ Palestinian+ Islamic+Jihad>
” – by their own chosen names?
The movie “
devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
One of the most devious tactics used by the Islamists is scaring their enemy
out of speaking the plain truth about this virulent strain of Islam, for
fear it might alienate or offend millions of moderate Muslims. But this
ensures that no one will directly confront their violent ideologies and the
books that contain them – since, under , no one is even
allowed to challenge their contents.
Calling angina a “common cold” does not change its nature. It only prevents
us from taking the necessary steps in treating it, which will only lead to
further sickness, and possibly death.
Playing word games with jihadists is not only meaningless, but plays right
into the hands of the radical Muslim terrorists – who, to be defeated, must
first be called by their true name.
Hamid, a onetime member of
<http://www.nydailyn ews.com/topics/ Jemaah+Islamiya> , an Islamist terrorist
group, is a medical doctor and Muslim reformer living in the West.