United States Seeks to Avoid Linking Islam with Terrorism

Posted on May 7, 2008

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U.S. aims to unlink Islamic, terrorism
May 7, 2008

UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL – U.S. officials are being advised in internal government documents to avoid referring publicly to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups as Islamic or Muslim, and not to use terms like jihad or mujahedeen, which “unintentionally legitimize” terrorism.

“There’s a growing consensus [in the Bush administration] that we need to move away from that language,” said a former senior administration official who was involved until recently in policy debates on the issue.

Instead, in two documents circulated last month by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the multiagency center charged with strategic coordination of the U.S. war on terror, officials are urged to use terms such as violent extremists, totalitarian and death cult to characterize al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

“Avoid labeling everything ‘Muslim.’ It reinforces the ‘U.S. vs. Islam’ framework that al Qaeda promotes,” according to “Words that Work and Words that Don’t: A Guide for Counter-Terrorism Communication,” produced last month by the center.

“You have a large percentage of the world’s population that subscribes to this religion,” the former official said. “Unintentionally alienating them is not a judicious move.”

The documents, first reported by the Associated Press, were posted online last week by the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

They highlight developments in the Bush administration’ s strategy for its war on terror that have been fiercely criticized by some who have been its closest allies on the issue, and apparently are being ignored by the presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Some commentators noted after President Bush’ s State of the Union speech in January that Mr. McCain had stopped using the term Islamic terrorism, instead referring — as the NCTC guide recommends — to “terrorists and extremists — evil men who despise freedom, despise America, and aim to subject millions to their violent rule.”

But in a recent interview with The Washington Times, a McCain aide said the senator would continue to use the term Islamic terrorism.

Daniel Sutherland, who runs the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, insisted that the avoidance of the term Islam in conjunction with terrorism “is in no way an exercise in political correctness. … We are not watering down what we say.” [more]

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Other articles of interest:

1. A Message of Peace from Muslim Scholars to the Pope.

2. Please click here to download the whole 29-page letter entitled “A Common Word Between Us and You.”

3. Against Terrorism and Religious Extremism: Muslim Position and Responsibilities. An extremely helpful and clearly written handout by the Islamic Society of North America addressed to both Muslims and non-Muslims.

4. Brochure Anti-Terrorisme et Anti-extrémisme en langue française. Une brochure extrêmement utile et clairement écrite par la Société Islamique de l’Amérique du Nord (ISNA) adressée aux Musulmans et aux non-Musulmans francophones du monde entier.

5. Full text of fatwa by Islamic Commission of Spain against Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaida (in English, French and the original Spanish).

6. Complete text of the British Muslim Clerics’ Fatwa against terrorism.

7. Complete text of fatwa of U.S. Muslim Scholars against religious extremism.

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