NPR, predictably, loves the new Administration guidelines on Speak No Jihad, Hear No Jihad, See No Jihad. “What Does ‘Jihad’ Really Mean?,” by Jamie Tarabay for NPR, July 17 (thanks to all who sent this in):
Morning Edition, July 17, 2008 Â· After years of using the word “jihadist” to describe terrorists who carry out attacks against civilians and the U.S. military, the Bush administration has finally realized that doing so actually pays those groups a compliment in the eyes of some Muslims.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Bush administration has relied on terms like “jihadist” and “Islamic extremists.” But jihad has very positive connotations in the Islamic world. It is akin to religious duty: when someone wants to better themselves, they embark on a jihad. Whether it’s to quit smoking, pray more, and in some cases, fight off anyone preventing them from practicing their religion.
“Just like you wouldn’t call Josef Stalin a hero of the revolution, you don’t want to call Osama bin Laden a jihadist. He loves it,” says Duncan MacInnes, a spokesman for the State Department’s Counterterrorism Communication Center.
Tactically, that might possibly be an effective tool. But as a manifestation of political correctness, and of a fear of offending peaceful Muslims who allegedly reject violent jihad and Islamic supremacism, it is suicidally stupid, for it takes away the one key we have to understand why these people are fighting us, and what they might do and not do.
The State Department has issued a memo to all its employees cautioning them against using Islamic references whenever condemning terrorist attacks. The Department of Homeland Security has also advised its employees to avoid those same mistakes.
Great. So the only people making Islamic references in connection with terrorist attacks will be Islamic terrorists. And this one part of the puzzle, dismissed as irrelevant or offensive or both, is the only piece that reveals the actual motives and goals of these terrorists.
Mohammed Magid is imam of ADAMS Center, a collective of seven mosques in Virginia. He says the changes are late but welcome. When officials criticize the word jihad, they offend Muslims, Magid says. “You isolate so many people by using that. We need to discredit terrorism.”
From a February 2008 report: “Another D.C.-area mosque, the ADAMS Center, was founded and financed by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and has been one of the top distributors of Wahhabist anti-Semitic and anti-Christian dogma.”
But there are critics of the change in policy.
Author Tawfik Hamid was once a member of Egypt’s Jemaah Islamiyah, which is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and other governments.
After breaking from the group, Hamid has become an outspoken critic of Islamic fundamentalism. He says some Islamic legal books still continue to define “jihad” in its most violent contexts.
“When these books change the meaning of jihad into a pure and peaceful meaning and stop the other violent ones, then and only then the Western countries should say jihad is only peaceful,” Hamid says.
Tawfik Hamid is right — and it isn’t just “some” Islamic legal that “still continue to define ‘jihad’ in its most violent contexts. But as long as even “some” of them “continue” to do this, and jihad groups continue to gain recruits among peaceful Muslims on this basis, we are foolish to pretend as if the term has no violent or supremacist connotations for Muslims, and to restrict ourselves from using it or exploring its meaning in Islam as a way to understand what the jihadists are doing and why.