Scrupulously accurate and consistent terminology is required to defeat Islamist terrorism

The international law enforcement campaign against Islamist terrorism is fought in complex politico-religous terrain intellectually. Scrupulously accurate and consistent terminology is necessary to win arguments in such emotive, ideological and theological contexts. Not least because of the importance of informed debate in properly targeting the extremist's centre-of-gravity, their ability to recruit terrorists, sympathisers and apologists.


Letter to The Australian
Tuesday, 07 April 2015
(not published)

Winning the struggle with Islamist terrorism means acknowledging its politico-religious setting and your laudable 07 April editorial generally reflected this.

However reference to the terrorist group “Islamic State” in English should always be only in inverted commas or, better still, prefixed with the terms “so-called” or “self-described”.

Even more importantly, some 17 years into this problem the editorial’s lazy reference to “Islamic [rather than Islamist]  fundamentalism” was counter-productive and surely avoidable.

Using “Islamic” and not “Islamist” means the terrorists and their apologists get to have their enemies — us, the rest of humanity — describe them using their own extremist terminology and thereby appear to endorse the bigoted interpretations of Islam underlying it.

Consequently, mainstream Muslims get pilloried because failing to observe the necessary distinction between “Islamic” and “Islamist” causes community confusion, suspicion and worse.

Those Muslims still in denial about the perverted religious basis for Islamist extremism get their denial reinforced rather than exposed by informed theological and wider public debate.

All Australians, of all religious faiths, are endangered because necessary counter-radicalisation efforts are undermined by appearing to reinforce the Islamist myth that community counter-terrorism measures are somehow aimed at “all” or “only” Muslims.

Thorough consistency in definition is vital to contests of will, especially between democratic societies and extremists attacking them from within.


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