A new ad by the Democratic National Committee strikes out at Republican presidential candidates for using the term “radical Islam,” saying that using the term is “equating Islam, all Muslims, with terrorists.”
In the ad, the DNC also objects the use of the terms “radical Islamic terrorism,” “radical Muslims” and “radical Islamic jihadists” by Republican presidential candidates, saying, “It’s oversimplifications and it’s wrong.”
The reason why the term “radical Islam” is used is precisely to make the distinction between this type of Islam and Islam itself. (While most of us learned about the purpose of adjectives in grade school grammar classes, it seems that members of the DNC were absent for that class.)
Moreover, the claim that using the term “radical Islam” amounts to indicting “all Muslims” as terrorists is equally absurd.
Insulting the audience further, the ad shows a clip of former Republican President George W. Bush saying, “We do not fight against Islam. We fight against evil” and “The war against terrorism is not a war against Muslims.”
No Republican presidential candidate who has used the term “radical Islam” — much less the majority of the Americans who agree with this use of the term "radical Islam" – intends to indict an entire faith group for the behavior of some of its members.
To wit, in America, the number of hate crimes against Muslims actually decreased during the past year. And in France, a Pew poll suggested the approval ratings of Muslims in France increased in the months after the Charlie Hebdo attack. Significantly, the increased approval rating was manifest in all political strata, from those identifying as left to moderate and right. (French people saying they held “favorable” or “mostly favorable” attitudes towards Muslims numbered 85, 82 and 65 percent, respectively.)
We have all heard the argument that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. As recently as November 19, less than a week after Islamist terrorists perpetrated the horrific attacks on Paris, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted, "Let’s be clear: Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism."
Facile platitudes such as these, as well as the blatant distortion that using the term “radical Islam” is equivalent to calling all Muslims terrorists does an extreme disservice to humanity, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, both of whom are in the crosshairs of a fanatical ideology that seeks their destruction.
Just days before the DNC’s ad appeared, King Abdullah of Jordan warned, “We are facing a Third World War against humanity" if the civilized world does not "act fast to tackle" the Islamic State and similar terrorist groups.
What the DNC refuses to admit, King Abdullah stated clearly, "This is a war, as I said repeatedly, within Islam,” noting that over 100,000 Muslims have been murdered by the Islamic State over the past two years (including in “atrocities like-minded groups" have pertetrated in Africa and Asia.)
In a recent landmark speech, UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron called out U.S. President Barack Obama for failing to name Islamist extremism and calling it instead "violent extremism.”
“Barack, you said it and you’re right — every religion has its extremists,” Cameron countered. “But we have to be frank that the biggest problem we have today is the Islamist extremist violence that has given birth to ISIL [ISIS], to al-Shabab, to al-Nusra, al Qaeda and so many other groups.”
In response to Obama’s failure to name the ideology behind current terrorism, Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist who now is on the forefront of those advocating against this ideology, asks, "What happens if you don’t name the Islamist ideology and distinguish it from Islam?”
Nawaz says what will come back to Muslims is exactly the attitude the DNC is advocating against. “You’re sending out the message to the vast majority of Americans: There’s an ideology you must challenge, but you don’t tell them what it’s called. What are they going to assume? The average American is going to think, ‘Yeah, I’ve got to challenge an ideology — it’s called Islam.’"
Nawaz added, “You’re only going to increase anti-Muslim hatred, increase the hysteria, like ‘he who must not be named’ — the Voldemort effect, I call it — by not naming the ideology. Because the average guy out there is going to assume the president is talking about the religion itself.
"But if you distingiush Islamist extremism and say, ‘Look, Islam’s a religion. We’re not going to tell you whether Islam is good or bad, peaceful or not. We’re not going to define that for you. What we can say is you mustn’t try to impose that on anyone else. If you do, that’s called Islamism, and that’s what we have a problem with.'”
In the long run, failing to name this treacherous enemy will almost certainly mean the battle against it will be lost. In truth, bombs can only destroy people, but they are ineffective against ideology, which can always fourish in newer and younger groups of people.
In his speech, Cameron stated, “Our new approach is about isolating the extremists from everyone else, so that all our Muslim communities can be free from the poison of Islamist extremism.”
Naming “radical Islam” for the ideology it is, is the first step towards fighting this scourge on all civilization as we know it.
Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org