Words Matter


This is going to drive many of you nuts (Robert Spencer certainly isn’t happy about it….I suppose he doesn’t want to change his site’s name to JihadHirabahwatch), but….

‘Jihadist’ among words struck from official lexicon

WASHINGTON | Don’t call them jihadists any more.

And don’t call al-Qaida a movement.

The Bush administration has launched a new front in the war on terrorism, this time targeting language.

Federal agencies, including the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, are telling their employees not to describe Islamic extremists as “jihadists” or “mujahideen,” according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. Lingo like “Islamo-fascism” is out, too.

The reason: Such words may boost support for radicals among Arab and Muslim audiences by giving them a veneer of religious credibility or by offending moderates.

For example, while Americans may understand “jihad” to mean “holy war,” it is in fact a broader Islamic concept of the struggle to do good, says the guidance prepared for diplomats and other officials tasked with explaining the war on terror to the public. Similarly, “mujahideen,” which means those engaged in jihad, must be seen in its broader context.

For the most part, I think this is definitely a good thing, and progress toward winning hearts and minds, and the war of propaganda.

Amy Proctor was the one who first got me to shift my manner of thinking on the issue of “naming the enemy”:

we do a disservice the war on terrorism when we refer to acts of terrorism as Jihad. It is not and in order to isolate the terrorists, we need to refer to what it is: Hirabah.

Jihad means to make an effort to overcome difficulty or to struggle. It includes an internal or personal, social and institutional struggle for justice and against oppression and sin. Jihad can not be used to force people to convert or kill non-Muslims. This is contrary to Islamic law.

Hirabah on the other hand is rebellion and terrorism, considered heresy within Islam. Acts of hirabah are capital crimes in Islam. It contains the principle of Jihad but carries out acts of “persuasion” to meet its objective.

Further on, she writes,

When we properly call terrorism hirabah rather than jihad, we alienate terrorists like al-Qaeda from the Muslim population and marginalize their efforts. In doing so, we show consideration for the Muslim religion, no matter what our personal opinions may be on the religion itself, and persuade good Muslims to support the effort against apostates like Osama bin Laden and the rest.

Calling terrorists “jihadists” may be more en vogue than referring to it as hirabah, but we risk legitimizing the likes of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah in the Islamic world if we refer to their terror as jihad. It’s murder, terrorism and hirabah. This is why the war on terror can be won; Muslims want to stop the assault on their religion as much as the rest of us do.

Amy’s husband, who is an Army chaplain, has worked hard toward shifting our lexicon, to win the overall war:

I am active duty US Army. I am a senior noncommissioned officer in the Chaplain Corps and have been working for the last 4 years since returning from OIF on establishing a body of knowledge that will equip commanders in OIF with operationally actionable cultural intelligence.
I was at the MNF-I HQs one week ago. Hopefully my remarks will be afforded a modicum of credibility commensurate with my experience.

1. The greatest buttress against radicalized Islam is support for orthodox expressions of it. Forget an all-out war with Islam; that is as absurd as it is impracticable. I recommend in your pilgrimage towards correct syntax, that you dump the demeaning expression “moderate Muslims”. As a lapsed Catholic posted above, he is Catholic in self-description but admittedly a ‘moderate’ Catholic as described by decisive violation of basic tenets of the orthodox faith. Such ‘moderates’ add nothing to the Church’s mission; in fact, they are scandalizers and stumbling blocks to others seeking the way of salvation. Likewise, “moderate Islam” is inherently troublesome and should be rejected as a creation of the MSM.

2. The next greatest weapon against radicalized Islam is building deep and sincere relations with Muslims. This occurs between neighbors over the backyard fence as much as it does between states. It is difficult to hate the completely humanized “other”; in Iraq, we have achieved monumental inroads simply by sticking by our word and committments with our Muslim friends. Believe me, they know we have to find ways to get along. They were the ones who had bombs dropped on them by concerned Americans. They want to get along at least as much as we say we do. As a Soldier, I can tell you the desire for friendship on both sides is palpable.

3. In American politics, polemical rhetoric is often based on obtuse abstractions and not real relations. If it is a requisite of the right to disown Islam, force the arguments into the concrete as quickly as possible. Ask, does that mean I should hate Abbas or Achmed or Fatima who work downstairs in sales? How exactly should I live out this denunciation of Islam in my own hometown? Realistically, we are bound by the Golden Rule to seek out what is best for the Other, even if he/she is a Muslim. That is best concretized by emplary behavior of our own.

4. The majority of the world’s Christians and Muslims concur that both traditions worship the One true God. The Pope prayed in a Mosque recently. 138 Islamic scholars recently reached out to the Roman See. Muslims in Baghdad are pleading for their fellow Arabs who are Christians to return from refuge. Deep and scholarly discussions between the communities of faith are underway all over the world. This is the way that has worked over the centuries. Men of sincere prayer find it difficult to use violence and coercion to persuade a fellow religionist.

5. I would venture that when you peel back the layers from those who advocate denunciation of Islam, you may find either those with no actual religious affiliation or active practice of their own, or, a radicalized Christian sect without a mature position on relations to religionists of non-Christian faiths.

As a Roman Catholic and a member of a professional clergy team, I cannot embrace the tenets of Islam that disagree with Christianity; I CAN, however, embrace my Muslim friends as sincere seekers of God. I can purge the hatred from my own thinking and model the religion that I believe in. At the end of the day, we have no option but to learn to live together in this increasingly flatter, smaller global community.

Master Sergeant John Proctor

More from the AP link:

U.S. officials may be “unintentionally portraying terrorists, who lack moral and religious legitimacy, as brave fighters, legitimate soldiers or spokesmen for ordinary Muslims,” said a Homeland Security report titled “Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations from American Muslims.“  (Sorry, had to remove the link- apparently it’s supposed to still be classified)

“Regarding ‘jihad,’ even if it is accurate to reference the term, it may not be strategic because it glamorizes terrorism, imbues terrorists with religious authority they do not have and damages relations with Muslims around the world,” the report says.

Language is critical in the war on terror, said another document, an internal memo titled “Words that Work and Words that Don’t: A Guide for Counterterrorism Communication.”

The memo was approved for diplomatic use this week by the State Department, which plans to distribute a version to all U.S. embassies, officials said.

At least at the top level, it appears to have made an impact. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who once frequently referred to “jihad” in her public remarks, does not appear to have used the word, except when talking about the name of a specific terrorist group, since September.

The memo also draws heavily on the Homeland Security report that examined the way American Muslims reacted to different phrases used by U.S. officials to describe terrorists and recommended ways to improve the message.

Because of religious connotations, that report, released in January and obtained by the AP this week, counseled “caution in using terms such as, ‘jihadist,’ ‘Islamic terrorist,’ ‘Islamist,’ and ‘holy warrior’ as grandiose descriptions.”

“We should not concede the terrorists’ claim that they are legitimate adherents of Islam,” the report said, adding that Osama bin Laden and his adherents fear “irrelevance” more than anything else.

“We must carefully avoid giving bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders the legitimacy they crave, but do not possess, by characterizing them as religious figures, or in terms that may make them seem to be noble in the eyes of some,” it said.

Zawahiri and bin Laden would like nothing better than to galvanize the Islamic world to rise up and join them in their war against the non-Islamic civilizations. Why help them in that, by conceding over to the Islamic terror network, the language of legitimacy?

Advice from the National Counterterrorism Center:

•Don’t use the term “jihadist,” which has broader religious meanings beyond war, or “mujahideen,” which refers to holy warriors.

•Do say “violent extremist” or “terrorist.”

•Don’t use the term “al-Qaida movement,” because it gives al-Qaida political legitimacy.

•Don’t use “Islamo-fascism” and other terms that could cause religious offense.

•Do use the term “totalitarian.”

•Don’t label groups simply as “Muslim.”

•Do use descriptive terms to define how a group fits into society. For example: South Asian youth and Arab opinion leaders.

•Don’t use “caliphate” when explaining al-Qaida’s goals, as this has positive implications.

I do have some mixed feelings here (I abhor political correctness!), as I have and still do, resort to terms like “Islamo-fascists”, depending on the context and audience. I understand its usage (not condemning a religion, but specifying a group within that religion), in the context in which many of us make it, along with similar identification of the enemy. I’ve been reluctant not to include “Islamic” in describing who it is we are fighting. But as the report says, it may be accurate, but not strategic to continue doing so.

At one time, I think it was useful; but now, I think we all know well enough who it is we are fighting, and can move beyond the usage of terms like “Islamo-fascism“, “Islamo-Nazism”, etc.

I’d be curious to know, however, what Muslim Americans Chertoff met with. That would give me encouragement, or pause…

Hat tip: Bottomline Upfront

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Linguistic Anthropology

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Hirabah, eh? I don’t think this is PC so much as good “propaganda”. I hope it catches on.

I agree with Fitfit, here. This seems really to be more of an effort to use terms with the correct meaning in context.

Considering that “Jihadist” seems to be the rough Islamic equivalent of “Paladin”, it seems an ill fitting term. “Terrorist”, or “Homicidal Maniac” would be my preference.

I will have to side with Spencer on this. I have no hate for the Islamic people and work with them as MSG Proctor did. However, the “leaders” of Islam are another matter and it is THEY who are the problem. When the “leaders” of Islam start calling it “hirabah” and declaring en mass that what is a “jihad” is now “rebellion and terrorism”, I may stop calling it a “jihad”. When they stop calling for riots and death over cartoons and “insults” then maybe.

In my opinion, the only ones “insulting” islam are the islamofascists, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranian Government, the Sudanese government, etc. They counter that it is they who are the only “true followers” of Islam. And reading the Koran, hadiths, and Islamic Laws, at times I would have to agree with them.

Instead, simply seeing what these Islamic “leaders” say when in front of Western cameras vs what they say, support, and do in front of their flocks and on Middle Eastern TV tells me that these “leaders” do not consider “Jihad” “Hirabah”.

So until then and until their words AND actions prove they have changed I will have to dissagree and still call a jihadist and jihadist and an islamofascist an islamofascist. Anything else is just falling for another Arabic word: “Taqqyia” or deception.

Now for some other things. Establishing a “caliphate” IS one of al-Qaida’s goals as stated by them. Ignoring that ignores the fact they will kill and oppress Islamic people to establish it. The Iraqis saw this oppression first hand, “woke up” the what a “caliphate” would look like and rejected it. “South Asian youth”??? You have to be kidding me!! The UK press does this and glosses over that these are kids inpired and lead by the same Islamic “leaders” I cited above into violence and oppressive acts. Not labeling them what they are is wrong and leads to Islam’s problems being swept under the rug….again.

“Do use the term ‘totalitarian.'” Ok, how about “holistic”? It means the same thing. Islam rules ALL ASPECTS of its followers’ lives. And they cannot leave Islam.

So we cannot cause “religious offense” against Islamic people, but their offending Americans, Christians, Jews, athiests, etc is ok? Sorry but it is a two way street.

There is a lot more I could add such as the idiotic misplaced “guilt” and lack of historical understanding reguarding the DEFENSIVE Christian Crusades which only took place AFTER Islam invaded and slaughtered Christian and non-christian (but not Islamic) nations and peoples.

I could go on, but I will end with restating that others can do what they want, but Islam itself states what its goals are, and unlike any other religion in the world, it has and will attack and oppress everyone (Islamic or Infidel) until either Islam changes, is destroyed, or is the only religion in the world. We have done nothing but concede and restrain ourselves as these “leaders” of Islam talk out both sides of their mouths and militant Islam grows. Until the “leaders” of Islam stand up, honestly and consistantly fight side by side with the rest of the world against the Jihad/Hirabah, and stop the “Islam ubber alles” garbage, I will not stop labeling the enemy for what he is.

I also side with Spencer. This argument is exceedingly old.


I can come back with dozens more counter examples and we could go on for weeks, but we will have to just dissagree on this.

As for no Danes being beheaded/killed, several were assaulted. I wrote a post on this months ago about just one incident. Also, the Danish police busted up more than a few in Islamic cleric backed plots to murder the cartoonists.

These “leaders” I spoke of do have a lot of influence in the West. I also wrote about the camps/compounds full of radical militant Islamists here in the USA.

I agree of much of the word smithing going on and especially this morning watching Chris Mathews talking in his interviews.

But something all of sudden struck me and really sent to accend in some interesting side thoughts.

What is with Chris Mathews in his interview with a Democrat this morning about taking sodium pentathol ? Here, is Chris Mathews suggesting the Democrats lie. or is paranoid.

Of course he is. At just about every breathe Mathews makes a claim Hillary has no chance to win the nomination.

A very interesting approach to modern news casting that makes one wonder why America has a problem with modern media propaganda techniques. So, in the modern sense Chris Mathews, MSNBC, is making gaffe of horrible proportions. Telling the truth about the snotty, smear, and arrogance in interviewing. America has been witness to is none other than “ interrogating methods “ to obtain information for political purposes. All along many social science experts have been claiming America never had reporting for over sight. But a fascist trend of information dissemination. Here one could make the claim for the obvious reasons but America is really interrogated in fundemental political techniques for power and greed.

Especially watching the snapping, spitting, splattering American’s witness as Chris Mathews always relentlessly with the arrogance of secret service officer asks questions and rides right over answers to squeeze something out in a public display to prove something to a political end. All to view in a narrative with ammunition of time pounding day after day hour after hour minute by minute. Keith Olbermann is good at it too, so is Limbaugh, Hannity, and the star performer O’Reilly. The list is huge first liners across the spectrum pimping news to America using this treachery on the very public’ electromagnetic domain spectrum. The results, we all witness a screwed up America, a bad dream. America lives in a nightmare watching six figure Journalist laughing having a gay old time all the while spewing pole numbers from some mysterious place unknown dark origin, certainly not from the goodness of Grace and the God I know.

Did you know that the sodium Pentathol is a drug used to get information from unwilling subjects. A truth drug (or truth serum) is a drug used for the purposes of obtaining information from an unwilling subject, most often by a police, intelligence, or military organization on a prisoner. But the kicker is the use of truth drugs is classified as a form of “ torture “ according to international law. This is a laugh when we think about how America is in a debate about water boarding. How many drugs have America’s secret service used and never been reported?

Perhaps Mainstream Media does not use the drug but use the methods. Here, today America feels like, personal sovereignty, a Republican core believe, is shattered beyond anything, anyone can think. Especially those of the Republican Party that developed the Patriot Act. No Habeas Corpus, and especially endorse secret prisons, Gitmo, or gulags anywhere in the world. That is scary to have embedded in a system for this long, for years, and kept silent by our free market media enterprise.

You with me, anyone can make the argument the free market system does not work here and the Bush administration has created the most devastating form of political movement in history. here our Mainstream Media complicity all along. The Irony is the 28% of America will stand by it and support Bush. The Media has given Bush a free ride for six years. Here, 72% of America is being choked out what they have and forced to into a system of not bitterness, but grief. Most don’t have time for bitterness.

Vote Hillary Clinton 2008


As usual, nothing you said makes sense nor reflects reality, especially the last line.

As if Steve’s projectionsim, “conservatives this/that” and paranoia/victimhood was not bad enough……

Wordsmith, you’re amazing! You’re every soldiers dream here at the Combined Arms Center. (This is, by the way, where GEN Petraeus was in command before taking on Iraq).

Note: MSG Proctor is a ch. assist, not a chaplain. I like my soldier to have a gun so it all works out! He is instrumental in dragging the Army into the post 9/11 reality. In fact, the proof that the U.S. is slow in coming around on this idea of Islam not being the enemy and being more deliberate about what words we use in order to not alienate the right people only mirrors what a battle it is to convince regular Americans of the same thing.

I remember fighting my husband on this back in 2005 and just not getting it. I refused to validate Islamic theology by admitting our enemies were not true, devout Muslims. After months of informing myself and having the willingness to be wrong about my preconceived ideas and stereotypes, I realized there truly is a difference between Arabs using terrorism and real Muslims. Jihad/Hirabah.

Think what you want about Mohammed or the religion itself (Mormonism and Joseph Smith are pretty out there, too), it comes down to whether we want to win the war or not. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are being won by, guess who, Muslims. Even the great U.S. military is impotent to win in Iraq without Muslims throwing in their lot with ours. It is literally an impossibility. And guess what? Their religion is very imporant to them and offending them only makes them turn against us. So do we want more or fewer soldiers to die? If your answer is fewer, we need to start being more selective about how we define their religion because believe it or not, they have CNN and Fox News in Iraq. Not only that, they have al-Jazeera, which is all too willing to report to Iraqis the terrible things people like Michelle Malkin’s readers say about them.

Side note: per Muslims protesting the Mohammed cartoons, there are two things to keep in mind.

1) They have a right to be upset if their founder is mocked. The bomb in the turbin cartoon makes no distinction between Jihad and Hirabah. If only we knew then what we know now! I was offended at the chocolate Jesus and would have protested if I could have. Muslims aren’t as accustomed in their countries of having Mohammed mocked which accounts for part of their outrage. We Christians are just so used to it that we accept it. Also, Muslims have social justice as a cornerstone of their faith.

2) We’re not seeing the whole picture. A handful of angry crowds that is played over and over on the news aren’t all Muslims. These are mostly uneducated, firey young men with a lot of zeal and not very good religious instruction. And some of them are part of the heretical movement happening in Islam. They are, however, mostly reconcilables, not irreconcilables like Osama bin Laden.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

Enemies Become Allies at Iraq’s Camp Bucca, the story of Iraqi detainees who were zealots much like the young men we see protesting the Mohammed cartoons. They are separated from al-Qaeda and taught true Islam by Iraqi clerics and imams. Out of the 7000 detainees releasede only 7 have been detained again! THIS IS WHY WHAT WE BELIEVE ABOUT ISLAM IS SO IMPORTANT! We can see the affect correct teaching has on these young Iraqis… why cannot we follow suit?