Arlington VA June 16, 2016
In his address on Tuesday, June 14th, President Obama went out of his way to discuss the importance of the term “Radical Islam”, indicating that use of the term does nothing to solve the problem of Terrorism. In that regard, he is correct, but unfortunately missed the point completely.
Critics of Obama’s policies have been hammering, both from the left to the right—liberal to conservative—that he needed to identify clearly what we Americans are facing as a threat. Specifically, many have called for Obama to indicate clearly that the threat is “Radical Islamic Terrorism”, or “Radical Islamic Jihad”, and not use other terms, such as “workplace violence”, or simply “extremism” in discussing this critical issue.
To frame the issues here, let’s look at what these terms mean.
Radical Islam, also called ‘Fundamentalist Islam’ is historically seen as an Islamic revivalist movement, often characterized by moral conservatism, literalism, and the attempt to implement Islamic values (i.e. The religious faith, principles, or cause of Islam) in all spheres of life[i]. Basically, it is a movement to return to the original precepts of Islam defined by Muhammad in the Qur’an. These Islamists reject modernization in any form, but they concentrate primarily on their own people, and their own religious practices. The 1979 takeover of Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini and his fundamentalists, with the objective of turning Iran away from western modernism back toward fundamental Islam, is an excellent example of what we are calling Radical Islam.
Radical Islamic Terrorism, or Radical Islamic Jihad, takes these fundamental religious principles and moves them forward into another dimension. This type of movement, claiming to represent the mainstream of Islam, is dedicated to complete extermination of Western philosophy and culture, and installing a very conservative, fundamentalist form of Islam under its own version of the law- Shariah Law, with religious courts replacing those in the secular communities. These groups will use any means at their disposal toward that end, including warfare, guerrilla tactics, bombings, executions, etc.; anything which will instill uncertainty and fear into a population, eventually reducing their will to resist takeover.
These radicals are not mainstream members of Islam. They instead twist and pervert the words of the Qur’an to their own ends. Unfortunately, that is relatively easy to do, since there is no single ‘authoritative’ source for interpretation of their scriptures. Instead, individual religious leaders, Imams and Ayatollahs, provide their own interpretation for their followers. When these religious leaders profess fundamentalist views, they can easily encourage their adherents to follow their views and take actions that can cause significant damage, both physically and emotionally.
It is these, non-mainstream members of the Islamic Faith, and those who profess to adhere to the Islamic Faith, and feel they have the right to cause upheaval who are those we describe as Radical Islamic Terrorists; the term that much of the political spectrum across America wishes the President would use in his descriptions of the dangers we face. Instead, Obama has chosen to parse words carefully, dismiss the proper allocation of the term to these individuals and groups, and contributes to the increasing fear among the public.
It is equally important to differentiate other groups which may be inflicting terrorism on the people of the US, or any other country. A terrorist is a terrorist, regardless of religion, or lack thereof. When some individual or group knowingly inflicts pain and suffering on others to gain control of their lives and make them subservient to the terrorists’ wishes, then these people should be called terrorists.
The use of the term Radical Islamic Terrorist is not simply political jargon; when well-established that some fundamentalist group, or some person claiming association with such a group commits an atrocity, they should be labelled for what they are. If the terrorists claim a religious affiliation publicly, it is perfectly appropriate to include the religious connotation in labeling their actions. The only political implication is when a leader who know who is committing these atrocities either refuses to correctly identify them, or falsely mislabels them out of a sense of political expediency.
In a free society, its people have the right to know the adversity they face, and they look toward their leaders for the correct information they need to understand what they face.