Saturday, October 07, 2006

Jihadist or Islamic Fascist?

From Jonathan Last:

What's in a name? We've been going through a series of linguistic somersaults ever since 9/11 as we tried to fairly and accurately portray our terrorist enemies. We originally referred to our foes as "radical" Muslims and then, when that proved unsatisfactory, coined strange words, such as "Islamism." The latest iteration came a month or so ago when President Bush settled on "Islamic fascists." This phrase struck me as being no better or worse than others, until I read an interview with Steve Centanni, the Fox News journalist who was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists. Centanni told the journal Broadcasting and Cable:

They wanted us to learn that Islam is the true religion and that Bush was wrong to invade Iraq, wrong to "wage war on Islam," as they put it, wrong to say things like "Islamic fascists."

Well, then. If bad-guy terrorists are upset about being called "Islamic fascists," then it seems that the president has either done an excellent job in picking a label or is waging a nice bit of psy-ops. (Or both.) Regardless, any term that upsets terrorists is okay by me.

Richard John Neuhaus, the founder of my favorite journal, First Things, says that our enemies are best described as "Jihadists." He's going to flesh his argument out in the next issue, but the nub of it seems to be that the key to winning the (poorly named) war on terrorism is for Muslims to abandon the notion of violent jihad.

"Jihadist" may or may not be a better term than "Islamic fascist," but it is important to understand that this debate is not academic. We face a real, ideological threat. A framework of intellectual opposition must be constructed and at the heart of it will be the definition of the other side. We know that we're in a serious fight. In order to win it, we need to be able to talk about who it is we're fighting.

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