Speak it Diana, speak it loud.
By refusing to call people who believe in Islam, from jihad to sharia speech codes,Muslims, we non-Muslims have taken Islam off the hook, severing its connection to the doctrinal menace it poses toward liberty. We have also, I would add, reduced the incentive for moderate people within Islam to reject jihad, the sharia, the apostasy laws, and even leave Islam behind them, as disillusioned Communists once left Marx. It’s just those “-ists” who are the problem; not Islam — so why are you so upset about Islamic law? There’s nothing “-ist” about it….
The AP Stylebook has opened a new chapter on the non-“offensive” Engllsh-language lexicon to parse the war on the world waged by Islam. The wire service bible (can I say that?) has decreed that “Islamist” is out as a “a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals.”
Hallelujah. I long ago learned to loathe the mongrel term, which is not to say it wasn’t sometimes imposed on me by copy editors who didn’t know better until they received, gratis, a piece of my mind. At the same time, this is not to say that the AP and I have to come to this aversion for the same reasons.
Here’s my problem with “Islamist” as demonstrated by Charles Krauthammer back in 2006 (from pp.199-200 of The Death of the Grown-Up). Correctly declaring that fear, not “sensitivity,” had prevented American media from republishing the Danish cartoons, Krauthammer explained:
“They know what happened to Theo van Gogh who made a film about the Islamic treatment of women and got a knife through his chest with an Islamist manifesto attached.”
As noted in the book, Krauthammer was telling us that Theo van Gogh made a film about the “Islamic treatment of women” only to be killed by a knife “with an Islamistmanifesto” attatched. Given that both Theo’s film and the murder manifesto were directly and explicitly inspired by the verses of the Koran, what’s Islamic about the treatment of women that’s not also Islamic about the killer’s manifesto? The “-ist” is a dodge, a nicety, a semantic wedge between the religion of Islam and the ritual murder of van Gogh. My lament at the time remains frustratingly current:
But why, oh why, is it up to Charles Krauthammer, or any other infidel, to save face when the face is Mohammed’s — the certifiable religious inspiration of jihad murder and dhimmi subjugation, not to mention the oppression of women? If the “-ist” is undeserved here, it is also misplaced — a figleaf where there should be no shame in understanding.
If the past decade teaches anything, I think it is that there is great shame in understanding Islam — for non-Muslims. Westerners do seem to find it shameful to admit that Islam, according to its main and mainstream (not “extremist”) teachings, is really that bad — that totalitarian, that supremacist, that misogynistic, that expansionist, that barbaric. Embarassment for Islam’s followers seems to overwhelm the Westerner’s mental circuits when imagining that millions of people in the 21st century not only submit to Islam’s law, but expect — demand — that the rest of us to submit to it as well.
Thus, we invent or, better, gratefully accept a way out for everyone. It is the “Islamists” who are the problem — not those who merely believe in and follow the teachings of Islam. What, doctrinally, is the difference? Why is that our problem?