Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Appropriate Term Is "Violent Jihadists"

Since the last Democratic presidential candidates' debate last on Saturday, I have been thinking about what is the proper term for those who carried out the attack in Paris.  Of course there is the specific group with which they are affiliated, which is best labeled "Da'esh," which is the Arabic name for them (from an acronym).  "Islamic State" and its relatives "ISIS" and "ISIL," which are competing acronyms granting them this "statehood," that they do not deserve are inappropriate.

But the more difficult question is the one that was posed at the beginning of the debate to the candidates: do you join the Republicans in calling the broader movement "radical Islam"?  While they sort of muddled things by saying that one should not "oppose all Muslims," that is not of course what the term "radical Islam" means, although it is not unreasonable to see that many completely peaceful Muslims might be offended by its use.  More precisely, however, the issue is violence.  So, there may well be Muslims who follow "radical" interpretations of Islam.  But such interpretations do not necessarily mean that these people support violently attacking innocent people as the those killing people in Paris were doing (as well as those killing people in Beirut a few days earlier).  While there may be some "radical economists" who support violent actions, most do not.  The word "radical" does not necessarily imply violence, even when attached to the word "Islam."

So what about "jihadi," the term used by Hillary Clinton in responding to the question?  Well, the problem here is that there is more than one meaning to the word "jihad" as it is used in the Qur'an. So, yes, those engaging in war for Islam get this label, but the more frequent use of the term has been to mean an internal spiritual struggle, a struggle that has nothing whatsoever to do with violence.  So, using the term "jihadi" also has problems. 

This extends arguably also to the slightly better term that Martin O'Malley used, "radical jihadi," which suffers from both of the problems noted above.  Neither term unequivocally implies the aggressive violence directed at innocent persons that is what is the real problem here.  Again, a radical jihadi could be someone who is engaged in an internal spiritual struggle, but one that is very profound and wrenching, a radical struggle that goes to their roots, but one that involves no violence.

So, I propose that the proper term is "violent jihadi."  This implies someone who is engaging in violent action for the purpose of religious war who also happens to be Muslim.  I  doubt these politicians will  pick up on this, but this term is accurate and I would also hope inoffensive.

Barkley Rosser


Myrtle Blackwood said...

I like the term "violent person". That puts a "violent jihadi" on the same level as every other individual who engages in attacks against innocent others. The discussion about the motive of the attacks in France is very much secondary to what went on, as violent persons always have a motive.

Murder puts no halo around any cause.

I didn't hear anything of the events in Beirut, btw. said...

There were also around 40 people killed in attacks over two days in Baghdad, but as in Beirut, there is a "so what else is new, snore" attitude about such things.

I do think that the religious fanatic motive of these people needs to be recognized, but it needs to be made clear that they are taking a miniority view of their religion and are especially advocating and carrying out unacceptable violence.

Peter T said...

"and I would also hope inoffensive"

Will you withdraw this term if it offends violent jihadis? said...

Peter T.,

Sorry, you do not get it. No, I shall not withdraw it if some idiot finds it offensive. The whole point was to get an accurate term that if understood accurately and properly will not be offensive to those who are innocent. The other terms used have the potential for offending innocent people, those not advocating violence. This one nails it.

Myrtle Blackwood said...

Re: "I do think that the religious fanatic motive of these people needs to be recognized, but it needs to be made clear that they are taking a minority view..."

The motive for violence is something that should be brought to public attention - when it involves the public. But the motive doesn't need 'recognition' unless it is a response to some other entities violence; because therein lies the need to draw attention to the violence of all parties.

Whether or not a view is 'minority' or not would seem to be irrelevant.