by Enver Masud
President George W. Bush and virtually every major U.S. news media persist in using oxymorons: Islamic
extremism, Islamic terrorism, and now, in the President's October 6 address
to the National
Endowment For Democracy, "Islamo-fascism."
The President repeated this rhetoric in his address today, October 25, at
the Joint Armed Forces Officers' Wives' Luncheon.
For anyone with sufficient knowledge of Islam, Islamic extremism, Islamic
terrorism, Islamo-fascism, etc. are oxymorons. Muslims, as the Quran teaches
(2:143), are "a community of the middle way." While some Muslims may
properly be addressed as terrorists, etc., to define them as "Islamic" is an
Perhaps this is a little difficult for non-Muslims to understand because,
unlike other faiths, the faith and the believer have different names: Islam
and Muslim respectively.
Leaving aside for the moment the contentious issue of defining terrorism, Muslim terrorist
would be more accurate, but then one should be consistent when referring to
Christian, Jewish, or Hindu terrorists.
However, what news media generally do is to refer to non-Muslim terrorists
as belonging to a "cult", thereby, taking care not to smear non-Islamic
faiths - Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, or Buddhism.
As for Islamo-fascism, Islam has no central authority - it does not meet the
definition of fascism. Even when the
community of Muslims (the ummah) had a central authority (the caliphate), it
was neither totalitarian nor fascist.
The term "Islamic fundamentalism" presents another problem. Christian
fundamentalistism was defined in The
Fundamentals - a 12-volume collection of essays written in the period
1910-15. There is no generally accepted definition of Islamic fundamentalism.
In one sense all Muslims are fundamentalists because they believe that the
Quran is the Word of God.
When news media use the term "Islamic fundamentalism" they are not stating a
fact, but a conclusion about Islam. They should then be prepared to provide
the reasoning behind such usage by a scholarly analysis of the Quran that
indeed this is what Islam teaches.
It would be more accurate to use the term Muslim fundamentalist, rather than
Islamic fundamentalist. Hopefully, then the writer has checked out the fact
that the person is a Muslim - "fundamentalist" is a conclusion they may draw
independent of the Quran and/or Islam.
Looking at the issue from another perspective consider the terms "terrorism",
"fundamentalist" etc. when applied to persons of other faiths or religions.
Thus one would say Jewish terrorist - not Judaic terrorist. Judaic or
Christianic terrorism would be the equivalent of saying Islamic terrorism.
Jewish or Christian terrorist would be the equivalent of saying Muslim
Yet another way to look at the issue of "Islamic terrorism" is to ask: "What
is the difference between Islamic terrorism, Christianic terrorism, and
Is the terrorism itself, somehow, different in each case, or is it merely
the fact that it is being carried out by a Muslim, Christian, or Jew?
If one cannot define the difference, then isn't the term "Islamic terrorism"
synonymous with Christian (or Christianic?) terrorism and Judaic terrorism?
Could a Muslim perpetrate Christianic terrorism or Judaic terrorism?
Clearly, this leads to absurd statements.
More importantly perhaps, the use of the term Islamic terrorism has a more
pernicious effect. It paints an entire faith as suspect, lets governments
off the hook too easily by not forcing them to more precisely define the
"enemy," and it endorses the propaganda of the hate-mongers.
It also distorts the true nature of the problem, and solutions such as the
Patriot Act, do not receive the
scrutiny they deserve, thereby, giving governments the freedom to conduct
war or take punitive action for purposes that have little to do with the
"This country faces a new type of fascism," says MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann.
"American democracy is in grave danger," warns former Vice-president Al Gore. We're "living in a fascist state,"
writes Lewis H.
Lapham, editor of the American monthly Harper's Magazine.
Terrorism: Definition, History, Facts
For a legal definition of "international terrorism" see U.S. Code Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113B, Section 2331
[. . . by surreptitiously justifying a policy of single-minded obduracy that
links Islamism to a strategically important, oil-rich part of the world, the
anti-Islam campaign virtually eliminates the possibility of equal dialogue
between Islam and the Arabs, and the West or Israel. To demonize and
dehumanize a whole culture on the ground that it is (in Lewis's sneering
phrase) enraged at modernity is to turn Muslims into the objects of a
therapeutic, punitive attention.--Edward Said, "A Devil Theory of
Islam," The Nation, August 12, 1996]
[By making the disciplined effort to name our enemies correctly, we will
learn more about them, and come one step nearer, perhaps, to solving the
seemingly intractable and increasingly perilous problems of our divided
world.--Karen Armstrong, "The label of Catholic terror was never used about the IRA," Guardian, July 11, 2005]
Enver Masud, "Fatwa Against Terrorism: Questions,"
The Wisdom Fund, July 28, 2005
David E. Sanger, "President prepares U.S. for
conflict with 'radical Islam' from Spain to Indonesia," New York Times,
October 17, 2005
Enver Masud, "Letter on Oxymorons to
Ombudsman, The Washington Post," The Wisdom Fund, October 23, 2005
["Extremism is no more the monopoly of Islam than it is the monopoly of
other religions, including Christianity,"--Andrew Alderson, "Prince Charles to
plead Islam's cause to Bush," The Telegraph," October 29, 2005]
["Distinctions have sometimes been blurred by inflationary language and
headlines such as Islamic terrorism, and in many cases the use of terms
Islam, Muslim, fundamentalism seems to confuse rather than educate the
reader," the report concludes.--Daisy Ayliffe, "EU praised for terror response," eupolitix.com,
November 10, 2005]
[Others were white and so, following Phillips's description of the
darker skinned rioters as 'Arab Muslims', should presumably be referred to
as 'Caucasian Christians'.--Jason Burke, "France
and the Muslim myth," Observer, November 13, 2005]
["In print stereotypes are not so obvious, except in cartoon caricatures,
but they still occur and anti-Muslim bias is more insidious. The terms
Islamic or Muslim are linked to extremism, militant, jihads, as if they
belonged together inextricably and naturally (Muslim extremist, Islamic
terror, Islamic war, Muslim time bomb).
"In many cases, the press talks and writes about Muslims in ways that would
not be acceptable if the reference were to Jewish, black or fundamentalist
has anti-Muslim bias, claims report," Guardian, November 14, 2005]
[It's really amazing how much easier it has become to understand the myriad
political situations between Morocco and Indonesia, or Nigeria and Chechnya
since September 11, 2001. Gone are the tiresome days of having to study each
country and its historical and social circumstances, its language and
thought, before you can write authoritatively about it. You just whip out
your Handy Islam Template and presto: everything falls into place.--Maher
about Islam? Get your HIT: How not to let facts get in the way of a good
religious stereotype," The Age (Australia), November 16, 2005]
[United States, in condemning IRA terrorism in Northern Ireland or Basque
terrorism in Spain, does not describe it as "Catholic terrorism," a phrase
that Catholics around the world would likely find offensive.--Zbigniew
Brzezinski, "Do These Two Have Anything in Common?,"
Washington Post, December 4, 2005]
["I think the smart thing to do if you're the president of the United States
is to sort of de-Islamicize the problem," said Kirstine Sinclair, a
University of Southern Denmark researcher--Karl Vick, "Reunified Islam: Unlikely but Not Entirely
Radical," Washington Post, January 14, 2006]
[European governments should shun the phrase "Islamic terrorism" in favour
of "terrorists who abusively invoke Islam", say guidelines from EU
officials.--David Rennie, "'Islamic terrorism' is too emotive a phrase, says EU,"
Telegraph, April 4, 2006]
Jonathan Cook, "How I found myself
standing with the Islamic fascists," counterpunch.org, August 11, 2006
[Colombia University Professor Robert Paxton's superb 2004 book, 'The
Anatomy of Fascism' . . . defines fascism's essence, which he aptly terms
its 'emotional lava' as: 1. a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of
traditional solutions; 2. belief one's group is the victim, justifying any
action without legal or moral limits; 3. need for authority by a natural
leader above the law, relying on the superiority of his instincts; 4. right
of the chosen people to dominate others without legal or moral restraint; 5.
fear of foreign 'contamination.'
Fascism demands a succession of wars, foreign conquests, and national
threats to keep the nation in a state of fear, anxiety and patriotic
hypertension. Those who disagree are branded ideological traitors.--Eric S.
Big Lie About 'Islamic Fascism'," ericmargolis.com, August 28, 2006]
Charley Reese, "Bigotry and Ignorance of
Islam," antiwar.com, August 29, 2006
VIDEO: Kieth Olbermann,
Fascism, Indeed," MSNBC, August 30, 2006
Jim Lobe, "Fascists?
Look who's talking," Inter Press Service, September 2, 2006
VIDEO: Kieth Olbermann, "A Special Comment
About Lying," MSNBC, October 5, 2006
[Americans are more approving of terrorist attacks against civilians than
any major Muslim country except for Nigeria.
The survey, conducted in December 2006 by the University of Maryland's
prestigious Program on International Public Attitudes, shows that only 46
percent of Americans think that "bombing and other attacks intentionally
aimed at civilians" are "never justified," while 24 percent believe these
attacks are "often or sometimes justified."
Contrast those numbers with 2006 polling results from the world's
most-populous Muslim countries Ð Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and
Nigeria. Terror Free Tomorrow, the organization I lead, found that 74
percent of respondents in Indonesia agreed that terrorist attacks are "never
justified"; in Pakistan, that figure was 86 percent; in Bangladesh, 81
percent.--Kenneth Ballen, "The myth of
Muslim support for terror," Christian Science Monitor, February 23,
Glenn Greenwald, "Terrorism: the most meaningless and manipulated
word," salon.com, February 19, 2010
[Recent exposes revealing that Ethan Bronner, the New York Times
Israel-Palestine bureau chief, has a son in the Israeli military have caused
a storm of controversy--Alison Weir, "US Media and Israeli Military All in the
Family," Sabbah Report, February 27, 2010]
Alex Henderson, "Army of God? 6 Modern-Day Christian
Terrorist Groups You Never Hear About," alternet.org, April 1, 2015
[If Muslims attack us, they are terrorists. If non-Muslims attack us, they are
shooters. If Muslims attack other Muslims, they are attackers.--Robert Fisk, "We love to talk of terror -- but
after the Munich shooting, this hypocritical catch-all term has finally caught us
out," independent.co.uk, July 25, 2016]
Caroline Mortimer, "Pope Francis says
it is wrong to equate Islam with violence: 'It's not right and it's not true',"
independent.co.uk, August 1, 2016