THE PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE, USA

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Volume XI, Issue # 118, May 7, 2009
Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr., Editor
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  World War IV: Islamist Terror War Against the U.S.A. & the West

WORDS MATTER IN THE WAR ON TERROR
By Raymond Ibrahim

ACCURATE LANGUAGE & ACCURATE KNOWLEDGE IN THE FOURTH WORLD WAR: ACQUISITION & USE OF ACCURATE LANGUAGE ESSENTIAL TO ACQUISITION & USE OF ACCURATE KNOWLEDGE -- AQUISITION & USE OF ACCURATE KNOWLEDGE ESSENTIAL TO OUR VICTORY IN THE GLOBAL TERROR WAR THE ISLAMISTS ARE WAGING AGAINST US -- THE UTTER FOLLY OF THE U.S.A. & THE WEST IGNORING THE TRUE MEANING & SIGNIFICANCE OF "JIHAD" & "ISLAMIC JIHAD" -- JIHAD AS AS OFFENSIVE WARFARE TO SPREAD ISLAMIC HEGEMONY
FULL STORY:   Knowledge is inextricably linked to language. The less accurate words are, the less accurate the knowledge they impart; conversely, the more precise the language, the more precise the knowledge. In the war on terror, to acquire accurate knowledge which is pivotal to victory we need to begin with accurate language.

Would the Free World have understood the Nazi threat, if, instead of calling them what they called themselves, "Nazis," it had opted to simply call them "extremists" a word wholly overlooking the racist, expansionary, and supremacist elements that are part and parcel of the word "Nazi"?

Unfortunately, the U.S. government, apparently oblivious to this interconnection between language and knowledge, appears to be doing just that. Even President Obama alluded to this soon after taking office when he said, "Words matter in this situation because one of the ways we're going to win this struggle [war on terror] is through the battle of [Muslims'] hearts and minds."

According to an official memo, when talking about Islamists and their goals, analysts are to refrain from using Arabic words of Islamic significance ("mujahidin," "salafi," "ummah"); nor should they employ helpful English or anglicized words ("jihadi," "Islamo-fascism," "caliphate"). Instead, vague generics ("terrorists," "extremists," "totalitarians") should suffice.

A renewed defense of this disturbing trend was recently published by one Colonel Jeffrey Vordermark and deserves examination. After suggesting that Americans "love to throw around foreign words," Vordermark writes:

    "We have fallen into the 'jihad' trap. The term is used in casual banter, yet most remain clueless regarding its origin or meanings. We think, therefore we know. Pundits, academics, and laymen profess to know its meaning, and the term is daily news in the mouths of reporters and in the banners of headlines. Unfortunately, its very use assumes that Islam is simple and monolithic. As a nation and society, we could not be more incorrect."

While lofty sounding, this view is riddled with problems. First, by seeking to excise the word "jihad" from public discourse, due to the erroneous notion that that term is apparently unknowable, this position is self-defeatist.

"Jihad" has a very precise, juristic definition; more to the point, Sunni Islam which accounts for nearly 90% of the Islamic world is, in fact, "simple and monolithic," thanks to the totalitarian nature of Islamic law (Sharia), which categorizes all possible human actions as being either forbidden, discouraged, legitimate, recommended, or obligatory. Indeed, of the major religions of the world, none is perhaps so black and white, so clear cut as Islam, which meticulously delineates to Muslims the correct "way" of living ("way," incidentally, being the literal definition of the word "Sharia").

Thus, to try to portray Islam and its institutions as somehow "otherworldly" and unfathomable so let's just not bother trying to understand in the first place is not only folly, but precisely what the Islamists themselves most desire: to guard Islam's more troubling doctrines, such as jihad, from infidel scrutiny.

Vordermark continues:

    "Historically, the term [jihad] applied to the concept of either a 'greater jihad,' or a 'lesser jihad.' The former denoting the daily struggle of the believer to overcome 'self'' in the pursuit of Allah's will, and the latter traditionally meaning defense of religion, family, or homeland."

Let's, for the time being, overlook the hackneyed stress on the socalled greater-lesser jihad dichotomy which, semantics and sophistry aside, does not invalidate the lesser jihad (i.e., armed warfare). The real problem here is that Vordermark's assertion that the military "jihad" has been "traditionally" limited to "defensive warfare" is totally false.

Even so, Vordermark is to be excused; he warns us about accepting definitions of "jihad" from "pundits, academics, and laymen," and, surely, he falls into this category. Thus, let us dispense, once and for all, with infidel-based definitions including my own and see what Islam's own most revered authorities have to say about what "jihad" really means:

First, it needs to be borne in mind that Sunni Islam is wholly dependent on the various rulings (ahkam) of the socalled four schools of jurisprudence (al-madhahib al-arba'). I am currently reading an Arabic manual called Al-Tarbiya al-Jihadiya fi Daw' al-Kitab wa al-Sunna (The Jihadi Upbringing in Light of the Koran and Sunna), a manual written by one Sheikh Abd al-Aziz bin Nasir al-Jalil. After closely examining the word "jihad," he concludes that "jihad is when Muslims wage war on infidels, after having called on them to embrace Islam or at least pay tribute [jizya] and live in submission, and then they refuse."

The book also contains terse summaries of the word "jihad" from each of the four schools of jurisprudence, which have the final say as to how Islam or in this case, jihad is articulated: According to the Hanafis, jihad is "extreme and strenuous warfare in the path of Allah, with one's life, wealth, and tongue a call to the true religion [Islam] and war to whoever refuses to accept it"; according to the Malikis, jihad is "when a Muslim fights an infidel in order that Allah's word [Sharia] reigns supreme"; according to the Shafi'is, jihad is "fiercely fighting infidels"; and, according to the austere Hanbalis, it is "fighting infidels." (Note: "infidels," or kuffar, simply means non-Muslims.)

In short, the "traditional" meaning of jihad is offensive warfare to spread Islamic hegemony period. This is doctrinally, textually, historically, and consensually demonstrable. At any rate, who probably better understands what jihad means, the non-Muslim Jeffrey Vordermark or the Muslim Abd al-Aziz bin Nasir al-Jalil? More to the point, whose definition will Muslims actually take seriously?

While the U.S. government is busy censoring itself, only the above "legal" definition of jihad provided in al-Jalil's book carries any weight with Muslims "radical-moderate" dichotomies not withstanding. And since that is the case, so too should it be the only definition that non-Muslims rely on in their formal analyses that is, if they are ever permitted to incorporate words like "jihad" again.

But what is the point of all this equivocation? The government memo explains:

    "Never use the terms "jihadist" or "mujahideen" in conversation to describe the terrorists. A mujahed, a holy warrior, is a positive characterization in the context of a just war. In Arabic, jihad means 'striving in the path of God' and is used in many contexts beyond warfare. Calling our enemies jihadis and their movement a global jihad unintentionally legitimizes their actions."

Aside from the fact that, once again, we are offered a false definition of jihad the equivalent of the Christian notion of "just war," which it is not the apparently widespread assumption that the words we use can ever have an impact on what is and isn't legitimate for Muslims and within an Islamic context is beyond ludicrous.

Muslims are not waiting around for Americans or their government that is, the misguided, the deluded, in a word, the infidel to define Islam for them; much less will subtle word games and euphemisms emanating from the West manage to confer or take away Islamic legitimacy on the Islamists of the world. For Muslims, only Islamic law, the antithesis of international law, decides what is or is not legitimate, or, in legal terminology, what is mubah or mahrum.

Furthermore, the U.S. government would do well to worry less about which words appease Muslims the memo also warns against "offending," "insulting," or being "confrontational" to Muslims and worry more about providing its own citizenry with accurate and meaningful terminology.

Words matter. Whom those words are directed at matters even more. The world's Muslims aren't holding their breath to hear what sort of Islamic legitimacy the U.S. government is about to confer on any given Islamist group, since it is not for non-Muslims the despised infidels to decide what is and is not Islamic in the first place. Americans, on the other hand, who still wonder "why they hate us," are in desperate need of understanding. Using accurate terminology is the first step.

Finally, as this article is dedicated to "words," know that there is a reason that the words "knowledge" and "acknowledge" are etymologically related: without doing the latter in this case, without acknowledging the true nature of the Islamist enemy and his goals one can never possess the former: requisite knowledge for victory.


LINKS TO RELATED TOPICS:
Islamism & Jihadism -- The Threat of Radical Islam
Page Three    Page Two    Page One

Middle East -- Arabs, Arab States,
& Their Middle Eastern Neighbors

American Foreign Policy -- The Middle East

American Foreign Policy -- Political & Psychological Warfare

International Politics & World Disorder:
War, Peace, & Geopolitics in the Real World:
Foreign Affairs & U.S. National Security

   Page Two    Page One

Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.

Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization

Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies

Counterterrorism & U.S. National Security

U.S. National Security Strategy



Raymond Ibrahim, a historian of Islam, Islamism and the Middle East, is the Associate Director of the Middle East Forum and the editor of The Al-Qa'ida Reader, a collection of tranlations of key texts and documents of the Islamist movement. Ibrahim's translations of the religious texts and political propaganda comprising this collection help readers comprehend the origins, development, history, and serious danger of the Islamist war doctrines of Usama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Founders of Al-Qa'ida and implacable enemies of the U.S.A. and the West.


The foregoing article by Raymond Ibrahim was originally published in the Pajamas Media, May 4, 2009, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum, a foreign policy think tank which seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, defining U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, working for Palestinian Arab acceptance of the State of Israel, improving the management of U.S. efforts to promote constitutional democracy in the Middle East, reducing America's energy dependence on the Middle East, more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis--vis Saudi Arabia, and countering the Iranian threat. (Article URL: http://www.meforum.org/article/2134/words-matter-in-the- war-on-terror)


Republished with Permission of the Middle East Forum
Reprinted from the Middle East Forum News
mefnews@meforum.org (MEF NEWS)
May 7, 2009




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