Posted by Wordsmith on 5 August, 2007 at 7:59 am. 4 comments already!

A couple of months ago, I described why I felt that in the war to win hearts and minds, we should engage in the propagandizing of the term hirabah over jihad, when referring to the ideological movement of the radical fundamentalists who wish to war with the West and the rest.

This isn’t about "appeasing" the multiculturalists by not labeling and identifying the enemy; or a refusal to call them who they are, because of misguided political correctness in not wanting to "offend" anyone. This is about waging counter-propaganda.

The jihadis want to refer to themselves as martyrs. Holy warriors. Jihadi. They are nothing of the kind. They are thugs and killers of the innocent; and fanatics and lunatics of an intolerant ideology. We should not give the jihadi movement the legitimacy of language. We should strip them of that dignity and distinction, and call them hirabi, or hirabahists.

Dr. Walid Phares writes,

this giant doctrine, which motivated armies and feelings for centuries, also inspired contemporary movements that shaped their ideology based on their interpretation of the historical Jihad. In other words, today’s Jihadists are an ideological movement with several organizations and regimes who claim that they define the sole interpretation of what Jihad was in history and that they are the ones to resume it and apply it in the present and future. It is equivalent to the possibility that some Christians today might claim that they were reviving the Crusades in the present. This would be only a "claim" of course, because the majority of Christians, either convinced believers or those with a sociological Christian bent, have gone beyond the Christianity of the time of the Crusades.

 Today’s Jihadists make the assertion that there is a direct, generic, and organic relation between the Jihads in which they and their ancestors have engaged from the seventh century to the twenty-first. But historical Jihad is one thing, and the Jihad of today’s Salafists and Khumeinists is something else.

Read more…

Whether or not those moderates portrayed in Islam vs. Islamists are the mainstream majority or the mainstream minority, reformation of Islam from 7th century practice and interpretation is necessary if it is to survive in peaceful coexistence with the rest of the world in the 21st. And we do well to encourage that growth by not legitimizing the "Jihad Movement". We do this whenever we refer to the hirabahists in the language with which they want to be identified, and in which they use to propagandize their hatred.

We do a disservice to ourselves and to the War against Islamic Terror by referring to the hirabis as jihadists, every bit as much as we do a disservice and dishonesty in not recognizing "Islam" as part of their identity.


The Islamists (i.e., the radical extremist militant fundamentalist wahabbi sulafists) are attempting to pull us all into a clash of civilizations (it is not: it is a clash between all of civilization versus barbarism), and a war between East and West, Muslim and infidels. Just as al-Qaeda in Iraq fomented the eruption of sectarian violence with the al-Askari Mosque bombing (the mastermind of this and the more recent twin minaret bombing is said to have been killed on August 2nd), so too do they wish to pull both sides into THEIR war. They force all Muslims to choose sides. And I fear that in some instances, we risk alienating Muslims who might otherwise choose the path of peace and alliance with us, and not with the hirabahists.

 I agree in fighting the "jihadists" on every front, and at every level; part of doing so, is in taking away the language of legitimacy from them and not refer to them by what they want to call themselves. For many Muslims, the term "jihad" has positive connotations. Whether linked to historical pride and romanticizing past glories; or with the "greater jihad" of spiritual inner struggle. So, when we allow ourselves to go along with the "jihadists" to define the meaning and connotations of "jihad" in the English language to signify the negative (terrorists, murderers, religious fanatics, homicide bombers, etc.), we give them the legitimacy of language.

Why should we?

*UPDATE* In my original post, an anonymous commenter left this link to other useful terms.

Further reading recommended, hat tip to Gayle: Michael Waller’s Making Jihad Work for America

Related blogging:
Bottomline Up Front on Congressman Ellison’s recent comments
Dragon Lady’s Den and also an update on The Importance of Language in Fighting Wars.
Serving the People of Iraq posts on FOX’s Muslims vs. Jihad and Islam vs. Islamists.

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