Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Semantic whitewash

From The Guardian’s editorial today:
Even before yesterday's news, Muslim communities across Britain were suffering from mindless and irrational attacks. The police, once again, were in the forefront of reminding the public that the bombings were not committed by Islamist terrorists but by extremist criminals.
Not Islamic terrorists, but “extremist criminals”? So, what, are we now being asked to believe that suicide bombers are just taking ordinary tube crime to a new, extreme level? Bored with jumping the turnstiles, they’re now turning to blowing up trains? What a load of rubbish.

Their “extremism” is defined by their religious/political views, and more specifically their views of Islam. And if strapping on a bomb and blowing up a train, killing tens and injuring hundreds of people, is not an act of terrorism, then the term has lost any and all meaning. Declaring the bombers to be “extremist criminals” but not Islamist terrorists is a semantic whitewash.

This problem will not be solved if we refuse to recognize it for what it is, and engage in silly word games when talking about it.

And by the way, why is it that, when a mindless and irrational Muslim blows up innocent infidels on a train, the press and the authorities repeatedly seek to remind the public not to blame the wider Muslim community, but when mindless and irrational non-Muslims attack innocent Muslims, the press and the authorities act as though “the public” is somehow to blame? Where are the incessant reminders not to blame the Islamaphobic acts of a few on the whole of the country?


Blogger Marc said...

"This problem will not be solved if we refuse to recognize it for what it is, and engage in silly word games when talking about it."

Yep. Something I've been blogging about for nearly two years now.

Keep up the good work Scott.


12:13 PM  
Anonymous Mark T said...

The concern is that the notion that Iraq is our fault and the US and guantanemo more criminal than the "insurgents" that bomb children in Baghdad and behead captives perpetuated by a combination of BBC types determined to prove they were right and bien pensant self flagellists appears to be providing a causus belli for disaffected youth. The Robert Fiskian anti american self righteousness is in effect an incitement to racial hatred. Of us.

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes mark t - Stephen Pollard's chum from Panorama was saying that extremists are motivated by being shown vids of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo etc.
The BBC etc keeness to flog (heh) these matters to death & at the same time find excuses for insurgents & militants is encouraging our enemies.

9:50 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Well looks like the Guardian broke its own policy. They used the word "terrorist"...

Really, so the police are getting into the act of "Noooo....those were not Islamist terrorists who just tried to blow up a train. Those, er...Oh yes. Extremist criminals! Yeah, that's it. Those were...extremist criminals."

Us Americans have a similar problem but we've gone about it differently. The problem being how to articulate the challenge we face without casting aspersions on reasonable Muslims who want nothing to do with terrorism in the first place. The media feels free to call the people who blow up innocent civilians in the name of Allah Islamist terrorists (though this ruffles some feathers in the media), but we don't call our war a "war against Islamic radicals", but rather a "war on terror", even though it really is the former. I think those who follow the issue here understand that when the terms "Islamist" or "Islamic radical" is used, we're being exclusive to the people who call themselves Muslims but who are doing very unIslamic things. The question is how does this identification come through to people who aren't following the issue so closely. I think the government chose the term "war on terror" not only to avoid placing a stigma on Muslims, but also because Americans find the tactic of terrorism unacceptable. I guess I don't understand why the Brits get so uptight about how to word something.

I wonder what effect this effort to continually redefine the issue has on the efforts to get Muslims to help the authorities find these guys. By saying that they are not Islamic extremists, but just generic, but extreme, "criminals", doesn't this let the Muslim community off the hook? These "extreme criminals" tend to live and work within the Muslim community. It's a pattern to which the British government seems to be purposely blinding itself.

A problem I saw after 9/11, and some brave, aware Muslims noticed amongst themselves since then, is that there was (probably still is) a kind of denial going on in the wider Islamic world about the terrorist problem in their midst. There's a strong tendency to want to sweep it under the rug, to not talk about it.

I was however heartened to hear ordinary British Muslims denounce the terrorists after the 7/7 bombing, on the BBC broadcast we get here in the States. Take that to heart. The fact that Muslims are willing to speak out against them is a good sign of progress being made. I wonder if the effort to redefine the label for the terrorists confuses the issue.

9:41 AM  

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