Posted by Wordsmith on 26 February, 2017 at 10:46 am. 3 comments already!


This is mostly a long cut-and-paste/re-post. I decided to make a post, though, just because there’s been very little content for the past few days.

President Trump’s new national security adviser:

(CNN)New national security adviser H.R. McMaster is already setting a strikingly different tone than his ousted predecessor, Michael Flynn, and President Donald Trump, saying the term “radical Islamic terrorism” isn’t helpful for US goals.

At an all-hands meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster said jihadist terrorists aren’t true to their religion and that the use of the term “radical Islamic terrorism” doesn’t help the US in working with allies to defeat terrorist groups, an official present at the session confirmed to CNN.

Yes, it’s important to be able to adequately identify the enemy, and name names. Why take Islam out of Islamist terrorist? Radical Islam? Islamism/political Islam? Wahhabism/Salafism? Islamic militant extremism? Jihadism?

Of course, there are some on both sides of the aisle who have no desire to make any distinctions. They either see Islam as the religion of peace and anything other than that is a hijacking of the religion; or they see Islam as incompatible with the West and with democracy, Islam is evil, intolerant, the prophet was a pedophile, etc.

Neither of those two views is helpful in the GWoT.

While I think distinguishing the difference between radical political Islamists, global jihadi terrorists (KSM, OBL, etc.) and peaceful Muslims (and even non-violent Islamists) is a distinction worth making, I can also see the propaganda strategy of marginalizing the enemy.

I think President Bush, himself, dropped the usage of “Islamo-fascists” (although I didn’t think it was necessary- just clarification) and any talk that would confuse and alienate.

Back in 2007, I went through a phase of promoting this idea (before letting it go):
One Muslim’s Jihad, is Another Muslim’s Hirabah:

Language has the power to define and shape perception. It is a weapon in itself. While visiting Amy Proctor’s blog, she wrote about the value in distinguishing the difference between “jihad” and “hirabah”, and to help make that distinction mainstream.

we do a disservice [to] 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.

Amy defines the two terms this way:

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.

Guy Raz of NPR exploring the political lexicon of the post-9/11 world we find ourselves in,

To most non-Muslim Westerners, a jihadist would be defined as an Islamic extremist who uses violence for religious reasons. Indeed, built into the 7th century notion of jihad is the idea of warfare. But it’s not so simple, because Islam treats violent jihad as a regulated endeavor, governed by very strict laws of conduct.

Then there’s the other problem: Jihad has a multiplicity of meanings — so many layers, in fact, that its meaning lies largely in the mouths of those who use it.

Professor Douglas Streusand says that’s why U.S. officials should stop using the term altogether. Streusand is an Arabic and Farsi speaker with a doctorate from the University of Chicago. He teaches Islamic history at the Marine Corps Staff College in Quantico, Va. In a paper written for and circulated among top military brass in the Pentagon, Streusand argues that describing Islamist militants and insurgents in Iraq as “jihadists” is hurting U.S. policy.

Why? Because according to Streusand, “for a Muslim, jihad is a good thing. It literally means striving in the path of God.” By describing insurgents or terrorists as “jihadists,” he argues, we imply we are fighting meritorious Muslims. To make the point clearer, he says it would be as if al-Qaida called its enemies “freedom.”

His suggestion? Use Islamic legal language. The term he suggests is “hirabah” — literally, an unjust form of warfare.

Not everyone agrees with Streusand’s argument. And clearly, U.S. policymakers, including President Bush, use the word “jihadists.” Yet Streusand says that changing the language ever so slightly may have a beneficial impact on public opinion in the Islamic world.

It’s been deeply frustrating to feel that so many outspoken Muslims have acted as apologists and enablers for their more violent “brethren”- the hirabahists who perceive themselves as jihadists. When President Bush makes reference to the label, “Islamo-fascists”, or when Michael Medved coined the term “Islamo-Nazis” to describe radical Islamic extremists, I certainly understood who they were referring to; and it wasn’t to the many peaceful, decent Muslims in the world. It was a reference to religious assholes wedded to violence.

Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., writes:

What names should we use that will accurately define and designate the cause? Calling things by their right names is the first requirement of reality; refusing to do so, the first cause of confusion, if not defeat. At first, we were told that the war is against something called “terrorism.” Its perpetrators were logically called “terrorists.” It was considered “hate-language” to call them anything else.

Unfortunately, terms like “Islamic fascism” gets misinterpreted, and we find ourselves creating unnecessary adversaries:

By now it is treated as established fact in much of the Middle East that President Bush said that Islam is fascist, but it isn’t so.

In Al-Jazeera, Laith Saud wrote recently:

George Bush, the president of the United States, continually links Islam with fascism…

Of course Bush did not do anything of the kind. What doesn’t Saud understand about “Whatever it’s called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam.“?

“Islamic Fascism” does not imply that all Muslims are fascists, any more than “Jewish Philosophy” implies that all Jews are philosophers or “Christian Democrats” could be understood to mean that all Christians are Democrats.

At list one Muslim understood this very well. In Asharq al Awsat of August 14, 2006, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed wrote:

When US President George W. Bush described those who plotted to kill thousands of passengers in ten airliners as Muslim fascists, protests from a number of Islamic societies in the west and the east were voiced against this description.

What is wrong with using a bad adjective to describe a terrorist as long as he is willing to personally call himself an Islamist; declares his stance, schemes, and aims; while his supporters publicly call for killing of those whom they consider infidels, or disagree with them religiously or politically.

The strange thing is that the protesting groups, which held a press conference, would better have held it to denounce the deeds of those affiliated to Islam, who harmed all Muslims and Islam.

Bush did not say that the Muslims were fascists; he said that the Muslim fascists were the problem, i.e. he distinguished between an extremist group and the general innocent peaceful Muslims. Yes, fascism is a word that has bad connotations, and is used here to approximate the meaning to the listeners….”

More from Guy Raz:

Khaled Abou el Fadl, who teaches Islamic law at UCLA, believes this term is a linguistic red flag. In his view, the word combines Islam and fascism — in effect, marking all Muslims as “the enemy.” Even if there are elements common to al-Qaida and the traditional fascist movements of the 1920s and ’30s, he argues that that the term “Islamofascism” is too broad to make that point. He would prefer something more specific, such as “fascist-like al-Qaida extremists” — a term he thinks most Muslims would accept. Such a change in language, he says, might make it easier for Muslims to see U.S. policy not as an attack on Islam, but as a struggle against a common enemy.

Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri identify themselves as the “true” Islamists. They read the same holy book that the other “true” Islamists- the ones who do not engage in mass murdering of innocents- read and study. They have just as much “legitimacy” to claim doing things in the name of Allah and His Prophet as do their non-violent brethren. So what’s wrong with identifying the militant extremists accurately, by including “Islamic” or “Muslim” in any reference to these killers? Why then do so many Muslims take it personally, and feel that they themselves and Islam in general are being attacked? I think, in part, it’s because some of us do not care to make the distinction, and do as a matter of course, routinely attack Islam as a whole. This results in a further sense of alienation and persecution; and perhaps closer identification to the militant Islamists rather than estrangement from them.

There is also the problem that many Muslims have shared grievances as it relates to the West, American foreign policy, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is a matter of propagandized perception and indoctrination (stay tuned to a future post on why it is not American foreign policy that drives the “jihad” movement of Islamic hirabahist militants).

I do think that Muslims would be much healthier mentally and spiritually if they did not live in denial of the fact that their religion does have an inherent “defect”; one that enables the kind of around-the-world violence against innocent civilians that we see today.

I think Amy Proctor has it right, when she says that we give legitimacy to the terrorists when they refer to themselves as “Jihadi” and we don’t argue the term; something that nonviolent Muslims have been trying to do. We have been good at “counter-propagandizing” such things as “Islam” more accurately meaning “the religion of submission” and not “the religion of peace”; but not so good in helping Muslims understand that it is not their religion we are attacking (of course, many of us do, unapologetically and unmercifully, attack and criticize their religion).

Muslims certainly do their communities no favor when they act as sympathizers, apologists, and enablers for violent extremists living amongst them. Those who do so, become party to the hijacking of Islam’s “good name”, and how it will be perceived and defined by the rest of the world at large.

That being said, there have been attempts by moderate, decent Muslims to take back the name of Islam and jihad to mean something other than what the militant extremists have come to characterize it as (let’s leave the historical debate aside, at the moment, please) meaning. Not all Muslims subscribe to the salafi and wahabi puritanical extremes of Islam. Especially the kind that advocates for intolerance and violence as the answer to creating a more “peaceful” and loving, Allah-filled world. If Islam is to have an extreme makeover in its image, it won’t be by making excuses on behalf of the inherent problems within their communities and within their holy book. Islamists have to come to grips with the realities of Islam. In the process, we can help encourage reformation of a religion practiced by 1.2 billion of the world’s population by (here it comes- brace yourselves!) being a bit more sensitive and understanding to the feelings of Muslims.

Phew! That was difficult to come out. But I think it’s an important one to say.

There’s a time to use strong “you’re either with us or with the terrorist/bring ’em on/wanted dead-or-alive” kind of rhetoric; and then there’s a time to exercise moderation and restraint; diplomacy and the “winning of hearts and minds”, so that we are all on the same page and on the same side against a common threat to civilization and to humanity: the threat of Islamic Jihadists hirabahists. If we are to win “the war on terror”, it will help if we get the greater Muslim community on board, to engage in jihad against the hirabahists.



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?

In 2008, the Bush administration went PC, in an attempt to win the language war. 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.

Sorry for the long cut-and-pastes; but I’ve found that on a number of occasions, readers will comment and it becomes quite obvious they didn’t bother to click on links. So that I’m not misunderstood, I felt clarity would be better achieved if I basically posted my past positions in their entirety.

Currently, I have no problems with using terms like jihadi, Islamic extremism, political Islam, etc. I am making a distinction between those who use violence and terrorism to achieve their goals, those who wish to subjugate through non-violent coercion and religious prosthyletizing (essentially promoting the Islamist worldview), and those who do live Islam as “religion of peace” (whether they’re deluded or not, isn’t the point; if KSM and OBL can name themselves as the true adherents, then so can Muslims who do not share the ideology promoted by Sayyid Qutb and Ibn Taymiyyah). Unfortunately, some people only hear “Islam” when you refer to Islamism (which I read as “political Islam”) and don’t understand the distinction you may be making.

I think people should be able to agree or disagree with McMaster on this issue, respectfully. Administrations under Bush, Obama, and now perhaps even Trump, may embrace this sort of “political correctness” for the sake of marginalizing the enemy and winning the GWo(I)T.

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