"Islamist" alert

Islamist: 1) a believer or follower of Islam. 2) a believer or follower of Islamic fundamentalism (or Islamism).

Islamicist: 1) a specialist in the study of Islam. 2) a member or supporter of an Islamic revivalist movement; an Islamist.

Islamist terrorist: a terrorist who subscribes to a radical form of Islamic fundamentalism (or Islamism).

Arab, Muslim: what America hears when you write or say Islamist, Islamicist or Islamist terrorist.

When the Committee on the Present Danger recently rose from the dead, many on the Left dismissed them as irrelevant and anachronistic-- a desperate attempt to reenergize the neoconservative movement.

While I never believed that they would become a powerful, political force, I did expect-- and am now seeing-- that they might be especially effective at shifting the language when describing their "war on terror" -- shifting the language of politicians, radio and the talking heads of television.

When Joe Lieberman, James Woolsey and Jon Kyl were making the rounds on news and talk shows, they repeatedly used the term "Islamist" to define and label our enemy in what was portrayed as an ongoing, world-wide war against American democracy. (While the 9/11 Commission Report refers to "Islamist terrorism," the CPD and its proponents speak about the war against Islamists-- a much larger universe of combatants than "Islamist terrorists.")

Until recently, the commonly-used terminology to describe "the enemy" in Bush's "war on terror" has been Islamic fundamentalists-- radicals or jihadists-- or simply "Islamic terrorists." (While jihadist is also problematic and misleading-- for anyone who understands its religious significance-- it is too late to rescue this widely-used word from the lexicon of terrorism terminology.)

Within days, Republican senators were using the term Islamist-- both as a noun and as an adjective-- then the White House, then Fox News. Tonight on CNN, in an interview with a "terrorism expert," the anchor asked how we were ever going to defeat the "Islamists." (The guest, to his credit, refused to mirror the anchor's terminology and repeatedly referred to "jihadists.")

I wonder how the word Islamist translates into Arabic? Might it be heard and read as "Muslim?"

We cannot claim that we are not fighting a war against Islam and then use the word "Islamist" to define our enemy-- if we expect to maintain this distinction.

Prior to the CPD's campaign to spread the word about the Committee's work, "Islamist" only appeared in the most right-wing, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim writing. Front Page magazine, the Heritage Foundation and Free Republic, among others, are especially fond of the term-- as is Bush's recess-appointment to the Institute of Peace, Daniel Pipes-- propagandist and founder of Campus Watch.

The words Islamist and Islamicist are often used interchangeably. Might this be a convenient way to blur the distinction between terrorists and Islamicists-- scholars of Islamic and Arab culture? This confusion in terminology can create clouds of suspicion over journalists, scholars and religious leaders who express sympathy or solidarity with Arabs or Islam. This has long been the primary strategy employed by Middle East Forum's Campus Watch in their attempts to intimidate students and professors on college campuses across America.

We must not allow these words-- Islamist or Islamicist-- to enter the lexicon of the Left when describing the fight against terrorism. If we do, we are allowing bigoted, anti-Muslim rhetoric to define our foreign policy.

Currently, a google search for "Islamist" will produce the usual suspects-- sites about Islam, and right-wing sites about terrorists. How long before the Islamist-as-terrorist usage becomes common in the mainstream-- NPR, PBS, commercial broadcast and print journalism?

Google for yourself and watch how propaganda grows.



Disinfopedia: Political Islam

High Time Bush Defines the Enemy
2 August 2004, Ronald Bruce St John, Foreign Policy in Focus

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