By Edward Cline ~
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, knows how to not talk about Islam.
Across the sea, Daniel Greenfield, Stephen Coughlin, and a few others not detached from reality, also know how to not talk about Islam.
Boris Johnson wants to find a new term for linking Islamic terrorism without mentioning Islam or Muslims. Or even terrorists or terrorism.
Daniel Greenfield et al. do not think you can discuss Islamic terrorism without mentioning Islam. If you talk about Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, you are talking about a cereal, and not about sushi or hummus. Finding a new term for Islamic terrorism isn’t necessary. The current term says it all.
Boris Johnson does not believe that Islamic “radicalization” has anything to do with Islam. “Radicalization” is a very real term to him, yet it has nothing to do with Islam. By what are British, American, and European Muslims being “radicalized”? The answer to this question is to Johnson as elusive as Peruvian guano dung. He tries several explanations but none of them rings true, for they all avoid “Islam” like the plague. It’s almost funny how finicky he is when trying to solve a problem by evading the simplest answers.
The title of this column lends itself, at Boris Johnson’s expense, to an old Monty Python skit, “How not to be seen.” Or, how not to be heard or seen speaking of Islam in any but praiseworthy and respective language. Language that deprecates or indicts Islam is out of the question. In Britain, it probably isn’t even legal.
Boris Johnson about a year ago, in a June 28th Telegraph article, “Islamic State? This death cult is not a state and it’s certainly not Islamic,” tackled the conundrum with a subheading, “We must settle on a name for our enemies that doesn’t smear all Muslims but does reflect reality.” To Johnson, ISIS, or ISIL, is merely a “death cult” and has no relation to Islam. It isn’t fair to Islam or to Muslims, he says, to characterize Islamic terrorism as something performed exclusively by hooded Muslims who usually quote Koranic verses while broadcasting their latest beheading, stoning, or hurling of a gay from a rooftop. Johnson writes:
If we are going to defeat our enemies we have to know who they are. We have to know what to call them. We must at least settle on a name – a terminology – with which we can all agree. And the trouble with the fight against Islamic terror is that we are increasingly grappling with language, and with what it is permissible or sensible to say.
Johnson first concedes that it is Islamic terrorism that is the “enemy.” However, to call it “Islamic terror” is an unjustified exercise of “profiling.” And in Britain, no longer a bastion of freedom of speech, profiling Muslims and connecting them with Islamic terrorism is no longer permissible.
But what are the objectives of this terrorism? Is it religious? Is it political? Is it a toxic mixture of the two? And what exactly is its relationship with Islam? Many thoughtful Muslims are now attempting – understandably – to decouple their religion from any association with violence of this kind.
Many “thoughtful Muslims,” however, are performing incredible mental and linguistic contortions to dissociate or “decouple” Islam from terrorism. The contortions are but exercises in taqiyya, as detailed in Stephen Coughlin’s Catastrophic Failure: The Blindfolding of America in the Face of Jihad. This important work was partly reviewed in January in ” Interfaith Bridges to Islam” on Rule of Reason.
…They are not running a state, and their gangster organization is not Islamic – it is a narcissistic death cult….
Yes, ISIS employs thugs, killers, sadists, rapists, gangsters, and other homicidal creatures who to a man hope to gain admittance to “Paradise” and 72 virgins by submitting wholeheartedly to Islam and Allah’s will. Yes, ISIS is a state. It has a government, of sorts, a currency, of sorts, and it works ceaselessly to preserve itself as a state. It’s called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The term “State” is not accidental. It does not call itself the Islamic Club, the Islamic Fellowship, or even the Islamic Brotherhood. ISIS’s main goal is to establish a caliphate in as much territory as it can conquer.
Rehman’s point is that if you call it Islamic State you are playing their game; you are dignifying their criminal and barbaric behavior; you are giving them a propaganda boost that they don’t deserve, especially in the eyes of some impressionable young Muslims. He wants us all to drop the terms, in favor of more derogatory names such as “Daesh” or “Faesh”, and his point deserves a wider hearing.
But then there are others who would go much further, and strip out any reference to the words “Muslim” or “Islam” in the discussion of this kind of terrorism – and here I am afraid I disagree. I can well understand why so many Muslims feel this way. Whatever we may think of the “truth” of any religion, there are billions of people for whom faith is a wonderful thing: a consolation, an inspiration – part of their identity.
And we mustn’t leave them in a state of disconsolation. Somehow, calling killers killers is “playing into their game,” and “dignifying their criminal and barbaric behavior.” We are, Johnson implies, granting Islamic terrorists some sort of legitimacy related to their “hijacking” Islam to better satisfy their homicidal lusts. But Islam is an ideology that sanctions whatever homicidal lusts may motivate the killers. It is they who are dignifying their crimes. Boris Johnson then shakes his head in resignation.
…Why do we seem to taint a whole religion by association with a violent minority?
Well, I am afraid there are two broad reasons why some such association is inevitable. The first is a simple point of language, and the need to use terms that everyone can readily grasp. It is very difficult to bleach out all reference to Islam or Muslim from discussion of this kind of terror, because we have to pinpoint what we are actually talking about. It turns out that there is virtually no word to describe an Islamically-inspired terrorist that is not in some way prejudicial, at least to Muslim ears.
We must have a name, a term, one which identifies the killers. Unfortunately, the overwhelming number of killers are Muslims acting in the name of Islam, whether they’re “soldiers” of Allah in the fields of ISIS or bombing Paris or Brussels Airport. “A” cannot be “A” because too many people are in the “A” category, and resent being so labeled. We must somehow render “A” a non-“A.”
Johnson then wonders how he can have Aristotle and eat him, too.
If we purge our vocabulary of any reference to the specifically religious associations of the problem, then we are not only ignoring the claims of the terrorists themselves (which might be reasonable), but the giant fact that there is a struggle going on now for the future of Islam, and how it can adapt to the 21st century. The terrorism we are seeing across the Muslim world is partly a function of that struggle, and of the chronic failure of much Islamic thinking to distinguish between politics and religion.
He will not, in the end, admit that Islam by its nature does not distinguish between politics and religion. It does not separate church and state or mosque and state. They are one and the same. Ask any ISIS killer, or any mild-mannered imam, or any humble mullah. They will tell you the same thing in so many words.
Daniel Greenfield in his April 20th Sultan Knish column, “The Fallacy of Focusing on Islamic Radicalization,” is an antidote to Johnson’s agonizing folderol.
Radicalization programs, under euphemisms such as CVE or Countering Violent Extremism, assume that Islamic terrorism can be countered by forming a partnership with Muslim groups and social services agencies. While the West will ease Muslim dissatisfaction by providing jobs and boosting their self-esteem to make them feel like they belong, the Muslim groups will tackle the touchy issue of Islam.
These partnerships achieve nothing because social services don’t prevent Islamic terrorism; they enable and fund the very no-go zones and dole-seeker lifestyles that are a gateway to the Jihad. Meanwhile the Muslim partners are inevitably Islamists looking to pick up potential recruits for their own terror agendas. Western countries fund terrorism to fight terrorism and then partner with still more terrorists to train their homegrown terrorists not to be terrorists, or at least not the wrong kind of terrorists. This is what happens when the “Islam” part of Islamic terrorism is ignored and outsourced to any Islamist who can pretend to be moderate in front of a television camera for 5 minutes at a time.
None of this actually stops Islamic terrorism. Instead it empowers and encourages it.
In other language, CVE prefers squaring the root of pi over naming Islam. Pi is Islamic “radicalization.” It can have an infinite number of explanations for Muslims being “radicalized” stretching from Earth to the Dark Horse Nebula and beyond. The answers, however, always without exception default back to Islam.
But Islam is a whole number. It can’t be squared. Squaring it only leaves one with “one.” Put another way, you can treat Islam as a pot of sea water. You can boil the water away, and leave the salt behind. The violent verses of the Koran especially are the salt in Islam. It’s the violent verses of the Koran on which the killers act.
Language, for Johnson, is the key culprit. It must be sanitized somehow to both identify the Islamic baddies and also to deny they have a lot to do with the Islam that so many blameless Friday-Go-Mosque Muslims adhere to. Language must conform to wishful thinking or delusions. It must never, never be anchored to reality. That would be “radicalization” and we want none of that.
Johnson gives an exquisite demonstration of how to not talk about Islam, while at the same time talking about it. Quite a feat of Saussurean semiotics.
Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Edward Cline is the author of the Sparrowhawk series of novels set in England and Virginia in the pre-Revolutionary period, of several detective and suspense novels, and three collections of his commentaries and columns, all available on Amazon Books. His essays, book reviews, and other articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Journal of Information Ethics and other publications. He is a frequent contributor to Rule of Reason, Family Security Matters, Capitalism Magazine and other Web publications.