I’ve criticized before the recent State Department decision to ban the uses of words like "jihad" and "jihadi" from official discourse, for fear of lending legitimacy to those who, well … wage jihad. I think it’s a form of unilateral intellectual disarmament to refuse to call one’s enemy by the appropriate name. To deny that what the terrorists are doing is, in their own words, jihad as defined by all the mainstream schools of Islamic jurisprudence is to clamp our hands over our eyes and refuse to face the truth.
Raymond Ibrahim, editor of The Al Qaeda Reader, pens an eloquent essay at American Thinker about why this refusal to call a jihadi a "jihadi" is so dangerous, in response to an opinion column in the New York Times agreeing with State’s decision:
The article further insists that we not bring theology into the mix, which is the main reason we are exhorted to not invoke these theologically-laden Arabic terms. According to the article, by using words such as "jihadi" we make it an "existential battle between Islam and the West. The terms of discussion are no longer about the murder of innocents in terrorist acts; they are about theology."
But what alternative is left us? By not bringing theology into the discourse, how can we ever hope to understand what motivates the Islamists? Indeed, to ignore theology, is in many ways to exonerate the murder of innocents — precisely what the article claims to be guarding against. We are always left with the "Why?" — why did al-Qaeda strike on 9/11? There are only two answers: religion (ideology) or retaliation (political grievances). If we omit theology entirely, it is then that we fall directly into the Islamist trap, which is to believe that their animus is a product of grievances and frustration at our foreign policies. We become the aggressors, they the victims fighting back any which way they can, and the innocents become mere collateral damage.
In fact the "extremists" — to rely on the vague lexicon of the NYT op-ed (for all we know it may be talking about a heavy metal band) — do not want us to understand the context, the ideological background, but rather to fall for the default alternative, that it is somehow "our" fault.
Be sure to take the time to read the whole thing.
The war we are in against the renewed jihad is as much an ideological struggle as it is a physical war. Perhaps more so. If the West, indeed, human liberty itself, is to prevail, we must have the intellectual clarity to see the enemy’s ideology for what it is, we must have the fortitude to plainly name that enemy, and we must have the confidence in our own civilization, for all its faults, to offer its values as an alternative to the Islamists’ religious totalitarianism.
(hat tip: Jihad Watch)
LINKS: Walid Phares points out the farce that ensues when analysts can’t use the words al Qaeda leaders themselves use in their statements, by looking at bin Laden’s most recent message.