What’s in a name?

First it was the British Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, announcing that acts of Islamic terrorism would no longer be referred to as "Islamic terrorism," but as "anti-Islamic acts."  Now, via Jihad Watch, we learn that our Secretary of State –who is in charge of our foreign relations at a time when we are at war with Islamic jihadists– may be set to ban the use of the words "jihad" and "jihadist" at State:

The argument, of course, is the old Streusand/Guirard claim that by using the word jihad, we’re validating the jihadist claim to be waging jihad. Of course, it’s ridiculous to think that the U.S. State Department carries any validating authority within the Islamic world to determine what is Islam and what isn’t. This would be the first time that unbelievers have set the meaning of Islamic theology for Muslims.

Also, the claim is that by using the word "jihad," we are insulting the peaceful Muslims who are waging the daily jihad of the struggle against sin, the struggle against the dirty dishes, etc. And that’s great, if that’s what any Muslim actually believes is the sum and substance of jihad, but it is an understanding of jihad that is at odds with the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Will Muslims be insulted by a reference to other Muslims using the traditional primary meaning of jihad? Answer: probably. But that doesn’t negate the traditional status of that meaning, or the influence of that traditional view in the Islamic world.

This is the "Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" approach: if we don’t mention the problem, it won’t be as threatening. Maybe it will even go away.

If I wanted Fantasyland, I know where I can go. But wishing on a star isn’t going to make the threat of jihadist Islam go away, nor will refusing to bluntly name it defuse it. We are at war with people –not an abstract "terror," but people– who take to heart the Qur’anic injunctions to make war on the unbelievers (us) until they either convert or submit:

And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah. But if they cease, then lo! Allah is Seer of what they do. (Qur’an 8:39)

Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burdens. That (is the ordinance). (Qur’an 47:4)

Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (Qur’an 9:5)

Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection. (Qur’an 9:29)

That last is the famous "Verse of the Sword," which is widely held by mainstream Muslim authorities to abrogate all the peaceful verses that come before it in the Qur’an. It is even taught thus in children’s books. And these four are but a few of dozens of examples of verses in the Qur’an and tales in the Hadith that command offensive jihad against non-believers. Again, us.

It does us no good to pretend that the acts of terrorism committed against us are not rooted in mainstream Islamic theology; the terrorists themselves are well-versed in Islamic theology and law. The see themselves as holy warriors  –jihadis* or mujahideen– waging jihad** in the name of Allah and as the latest executors of a religious duty stretching back more than 1,300 years to Muhammad himself. For our leaders to pretend otherwise is an act of ideological appeasement and intellectual self-disarmament.

How are we supposed to fight, let alone win, if we lack the intellectual clarity and fortitude to name the enemy?

*(Sorry, Condi.)

**(Oops. Did it again.)



2 Responses to What’s in a name?

  1. Shukri Shiraz says:

    The name jihadist was invented by non-Muslims. And it is a word that Muslims generally find to be derogatory. Hence I think its great that at least some leaders of the world are intelligent enough to use terminology that actually describes the terrorists pretty well.
    Secondly the verses of war that you mention were revealed during wartime and as such is perfectly appropriate. It’s a pity that you didn’t mention any of the numerous verses of peace:
    “God does not forbid you from being kind and just to those who have neither made war on you account of your religion nor driven you from your homes. God loves those who are equitable.”
    Quran 60:8
    Invite all to the way of your Lord
    with wisdom and beautiful preaching.
    And argue with them
    in ways that are best and most gracious…
    And if you punish,
    let your punishment be proportional
    to the wrong that has been done to you.
    But if you show patience, that is indeed the best course.
    Be patient, for your patience is from God.
    And do not grieve over them,
    or distress yourself because of their plots.
    For God is with those who restrain themselves,
    and those who do good.
    Qur’an 16:125-128
    Oh you who believe!
    Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God,
    even against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin,
    and whether it be against rich or poor,
    for God can best protect both.
    Follow not the cravings of your hearts, lest you swerve,
    and if you distort justice or decline to do justice,
    verily God is well acquainted with all that you do.
    Qur’an 4:135
    The recompense for an injury
    is an injury equal thereto (in degree),
    but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation,
    his reward is due from God,
    for God loves not those who do wrong.
    But indeed, if any do help and defend themselves
    after a wrong done to them,
    against such there is no cause of blame.
    The blame is only against those who oppress men
    with wrongdoing and insolently transgress
    beyond bounds through the land,
    defying right and justice.
    For such there will be a penalty grievous (in the Hereafter).
    But indeed, if any show patience and forgive,
    that would truly be an affair of great resolution.
    Qur’an 42:40-43
    Goodness and evil are not equal.
    Repel evil with what is better.
    Then that person with whom there was hatred,
    may become your intimate friend!
    And no one will be granted such goodness
    except those who exercise patience and self-restraint,
    none but people of the greatest good fortune.
    Qur’an 41:34-35

  2. SteveTN says:

    If a bird looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.

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