Monday, May 15, 2006

Semantics or significance?

Nick Cohen in the Observer makes the point that it is impossible to understand Islamic terrorism if one refuses to see it for what it is - rooted in a pursuit of Islamist ideals. There is an argument, which is better carried out by people more qualified, as to whether or not the Islam that these terrorists espouse is a legitimate expression of a violent faith, or a perverse and self-serving abuse of a peaceful one. What should not be in question, however, is that it is Islam that inspires the terrorism.

So it is infuriating to see the EU's Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, Franco Frattini, saying that

You cannot use the term "Islamic terrorism", people who commit suicide attacks or criminal activities on behalf of religion, Islamic religion or other religion, they abuse the name of this religion.


As Cohen says, it is at least reasonable to listen to the terrorists themselves as to whether they are inspired by Islam. In the comments to Cohen's piece a theme emerges: this is merely Islamic exceptionalism (the comments also include the description of Cohen as 'a one way zionist war mongering hate machine' which in my book is one of the most Spart-like insults I've heard). No-one talks of the IRA as 'Catholic terrorists' or of Timothy McVeigh as a 'Christian terrorist' after all do they?

Well no they don't. And there's a very good reason. The bastards of the IRA bombed and murdered and kneecapped teenagers for two generations not in the name of Catholicism, but in the name of a united Irish Republic. As such they were always referred to (as I recall) as 'Republican terrorists' except by Ken Livingstone obviously. As for McVeigh, as far as I know the bombings were carried out through the back-woods libertarianism that also inspired the Unabomber. Terrorists usually commit atrocities out of an ideological background. The reason that Islamist terrorists should, alone, be referred to by their religion is because it is their religion that is their ideology.

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