"Don't Invoke Islam: Although the al-Qaida network exploits religious sentiments and tries to use religion to justify its actions, we should treat it as an illegitimate political organization, both terrorist and criminal."
-- From 'Words that Work and Words that Don't: A Guide for Counterterrorism Communication'.
In the last week or so President Obama visited the National Defence University in order to re-express, or revaluate, America's broad goals and commitments in its 'war against terror' (a phrase he -- now? -- rejects).
Predictably, Obama said that 'the United States is not at war with Islam'. Nonetheless, Obama is simply reiterating a stance he has held since he became president. In fact his position is based upon, or, more correctly, it is best expressed by, a document which dates back to 2008; a year before he became president. That document is called 'Words that Work and Words that Don't: A Guide for Counterterrorism Communication' which can be found on the website of The Investigative Project on Terrorism. 'Words that Work,' produced by the State Department's Counterterrorism Communications Center, found that Islam and terrorism are not linked.
So that's official! Islamism or militant Islam and terrorism are not linked either. There is absolutely no connection whatsoever between Islam, in any of its forms, and terrorism. The only thing that is linked to terrorism are various 'death cults' or 'sects'. This is now the truth according to Barack Obama too. Obama ordered a revision of America's National Security Strategy, around three years ago, so as to erase all possible connections between Islam and terrorism. That is, between Islam and anything violent.
This is thought control. It's all really about words; not about realities or actions.
Specifically, the phrase 'Islamic radicalism' has been erased from much -- or all! -- American governmental discourse. And if the words no longer exist, then surely the realities can't exist either -- at least not according to the postmodern logic of the American Government.
Apparently it was George W. Bush who got it all wrong. He made the illogical and 'Islamophobic' conclusion that Islam and terrorism are indeed intertwined. Actually that's not quite right. He rightly concluded that 'militant Islam' and terrorism are intertwined. More specifically, a Bush-era document described the war against terrorists as "the struggle against militant Islamic radicalism... the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century".
But didn't Bush also think pure and good Islam was a pretty decent thing?
Then the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) got in on the act. And when it does so, which is quite often, it often gets what it wants from the U.S. Government.
Clearly such a disconnecting of Islam and terrorism pleased CAIR very much. It said that it would "welcome this change in language as another step toward respectful and effective outreach to Muslims at home and abroad". Well I never! Muslims being jubilant over the effective denial of any Islam-terrorism connection? You wouldn't expect anything else, would you? Now Muslims can carry out their jihadist acts without anyone ever seeing the deep connections between Islam and violence. Or at least they won't be able to use the phrase 'Islamic terrorism' or 'Islamist terrorism' if they work for the U.S. Government. Who knows, perhaps Islamic terrorism will magically disappear if such a thing is never spoken of, or even thought about, in those words.
CAIR thinks that phrases like 'Islamic terrorism' are 'loaded'. That is, it's wrong and quite simply 'Islamophobic' to use phrases like 'Islamist terrorism'. Let's not mess about here. It's wrong and Islamophobic to even think that there's even a slight hint of a connection between Islam and terrorism or to violence generally.
Yet Islamic terrorism and violence exists! It exists on a massive and everyday scale. So what does CAIR, and therefore Barack Obama, want to do about this very inconvenient and logical connection between Islam and violence? They want to change the words we use to describe Islamic terrorism by keeping the 'terrorism' part but erasing the word 'Islamist' or 'Islamic'. Surely that will change reality too; not just change the words we use and the thoughts we think. Or so CAIR and the U.S. Government think.
Specifically, they want to keep the 'words that work' and get rid of the 'words that don't work'. That is how the U.S. National Counter-Terrorism Centre put it. "'Islamist terrorism'" does "not work". "'Death-cult terrorism"' or '"evil terrorism"', yes, "does work". Why is that? It can in no way stop Islamic terrorism. But it may make the lives of American Muslims a whole lot easier. The 'moderate' Muslims won't feel the need to defend their religion any more. The terrorists will find it a whole lot easier to do what they do if government infidels are not allowed to look towards Islam, and the teachers and teachings of Islam, to help them fight Islamic terrorism.
Not even al-Qaeda can now be called 'Islamic' or 'Muslim'. It would have come as a surprise to Osama bin Laden, were he still alive, that he was not a Muslim and that he didn't control an Islamic terrorist network. Indeed this is a surprise to me, as it will be to the millions of non-Muslims who do see a strong connection between Islam and violence.
More specifically, CAIR and the US Government claimed that these naughty and Islamophobic phrases 'unintentionally legitimize' terrorist groups. That is, to see these organisations as Islamic, or as aspects of Islam (even if small aspects), is to make them seem more acceptable and, well, more Islamic than they really are.
Nonetheless, what if there is a connection between Islam, or only parts thereof, and violence? What if Osama bin Laden was a Muslim -- full stop? What if he was even a good Muslim who was actually truer to his religion than many other Muslims, including CAIR and the so-called 'moderates'? (That's if CAIR and the Muslim moderates are genuinely against Islamic terrorism or terrorism in the name of Islam.)
Alternatively, CAIR's suggestions may have been offered to make life not only easier for moderate Muslims; but also for the Islamic terrorists themselves. If the terrorists and their acts cannot be spoken of as what they truly are, then they cease to exist qua Islamic terrorists. And if Islamic terrorism ceases to exist qua Islamic terrorism, then the terrorists will be far harder to defeat. Islamic terror will increase, not lessen.
All this is no surprise if one bears in mind Obama's speech at Cairo University in Egypt in June 2009. In that speech he told Egyptian Muslims that 'the US does not fear or hate the Muslim world'. And to prove this he promised to bend over backwards for Muslims and the Muslim world -- as far as is humanly or politically possible within the confines of being an American president. He promised to rewrite the English language and thus re-tune the infidels' thoughts about Islam and terrorism. Could any Muslim ask for more?
Correction: An earlier version of this piece erred in stating that the paper 'Words that Work and Words that Don't: A Guide for Counterterrorism Communication' was published by The Investigative Project on Terrorism. In fact, it was produced by the State Department's Counterterrorism Communications Center and appeared on the Center's website without attribution. AT regrets the error.