“Islamic terrorists”:  Who are they insulting?

“Islamic terrorists”:  Who are they insulting?

by Sheila Musaji

In his speech at the RNC Rudy Giuliani said:  “For four days in Denver, the Democrats were afraid to use the term “Islamic terrorism.” I imagine they believe it is politically incorrect to say it. I think they believe they will insult someone. Please tell me, who they are insulting if they say, “Islamic terrorism.” They are insulting terrorists!” (Full text of speech)

This isn’t the first time that Giuliani has made this statement.  In July, he complained that Democratic presidential candidates avoided using formulations of the term “Islamic extremists,” saying“I can’t imagine who you insult if you say Islamic terrorist“  “During their two debates they never mentioned the word Islamic terrorist, Islamic extremist, Islamic fascist, terrorist, whatever combination of those words you want to use, (the) words never came up,” Giuliani said Tuesday in Virginia Beach. “Maybe it’s politically incorrect to say that. I don’t know. I can’t imagine who you insult if you say Islamic terrorist. You don’t insult anyone who is Islamic who isn’t a terrorist.“  And he played the “Islamic terror” card heavily in his failed run for the presidency.  In that campaign his Veterans’ Co-Chairman resigned after an issue was raised about his anti-Muslim remarks, and Rep. Peter King, Giuliani’s homeland security advisor came under fire for saying that there were too many mosques in the U.S.

Mitt Romney also used the RNC to say:  “Is a Supreme Court liberal or conservative that awards Guantanamo terrorists with constitution rights?” Romney said. “John McCain hit the nail on the head: radical violent Islam is evil, and he will defeat it!”   (Full text of speech)

Former CENTCOM Commander Gen. John Abizaid showed that he understands the problem with this sort of rhetoric when he said“I mean, even adding the word Islamic extremism, or qualifying it to Sunni Islamic extremism, or qualifying it further to Sunni Islamic extermism as exemplified by government such as Bin Laden, all make it very, very difficult because the battle of words is meaningful, especially in the Middle East to people. And so, I do think, and I had a chance to get to know many of the regional leaders out there. They clearly understand that we, collectively, are fighting a problem that they don’t want to win, that we don’t want to win. The problem that we have to face is how do we work together to keep this problem from becoming mainstream. […]  The key is to figure out how we don’t turn this into Samuel Huntington’s Battle of Civilization’s and we work toward an area where we respect mainstream Islam. There’s nothing Islamic about Bin Laden’s philosophy, there’s nothing Islamic about suicide bombing. I believe that these are huge difficulties that we need to overcome, this notion of Christianity versus Islam. It’s not that, it doesn’t need to be that.”

It seems to me that the comments at the Republican National Convention can’t be taken out of the context of the political climate in the U.S. or of previous comments by John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and other politicians.  There are a lot of folks who have very negative views about Muslims and Islam in general and who blame the entire religion for the acts of criminals, for these folks — the problem is not just Muslim terrorists but an “evil” Islam.  For many years there has been a consistent barrage of such linkage of Islam and terror.  TAM has a collection of these alarming anti-Muslim quotes - many by “respectable” community and religious leaders which had to be broken down into sections by time frame because there were so many - 2007-2008, 2006, 2001-2005, 2000 and before

The Republicans seem to have decided that the way to win this election is to continue to exploit the 9/11 fears of the American public, and to convince them that only they can save us from “THEM” and that this is our number one issue.  As John McCain put it:  “The greatest danger facing the world is Islamic Terrorism”.  McCain has had his own problems with associates making anti-Muslim statements,  and with a spiritual advisor who advocated destroying Islam, and his comment that America is better off with a Christian President and he doesn’t want a Muslim in the Oval Office raised a lot of concerns in the Muslim community as did his and his “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” ditty, and his surprising confusion about al Qaeda and Iran.  Has McCain read the U.S. Constitution which says in Article VI, section 3:  “ ...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. ”

This is a good ploy to avoid talking about the real issues that are much more frightening in reality - climate change, unemployment, a failing education system, health care, the housing crisis, an enormous national debt, eroding civil rights, a war in Iraq based on lies, a banking crisis, an energy crisis, and eroding International respect.  It is also a good ploy to avoid facing the issue that McCain voted with George Bush 90% of the time, and under their watch and with their foreign policy, Americans are actually less safe.

As an American Muslim I can tell the Republicans that such statements are insulting - to me, and to a large number of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, and to a large number of the millions of American Muslims (and Arabs).  Convincing the Muslims of the world that this is a war with Islam will not make Americans any safer,  and only gives the criminal terrorists fuel for their own propoganda.  I can only hope that the Republicans will tell us something about how they will deal with all the real issues that we face.  This is a question that the 400 protestors arrested outside of the RNC were also asking.

As Nihad Awad said in a failed appeal for inclusiveness at the RNC:  “True leaders do not exploit fear or stereotypes for political gain,” Awad said in a statement Wednesday. “We hope to hear Senator McCain and Governor Palin say they will defend the civil and religious rights of all Americans, work with the American Muslim community in making our nation both free and secure and help build better relations with the Islamic world.”

Is the change that McCain promised was coming going to be just more of the same?  At least for the American Muslim community, it looks that way.

As Shahed Amanullah pointed out in an article on Beliefnet

I don’t have a problem with fighting radicals who manipulate Islam for violent ends.  What I do have a problem with is that these Republican leaders, and the crowd they lather up, have such a vague defintion of “radical Islam” that it demonizes millions of law-abiding Muslim Americans in the eyes of their fellow citizens, few of whom could tell the difference between a radical Muslim and a peaceful one. 

I have a Muslim friend who has been a Republican for 30 years (surprisingly enough, there are an embattled few Muslim Republicans) who emailed the McCain campaign to get some clarification on exactly what they define as “radical Islam”.  To sum up the long answer that came back: there are up to 100 million radical Islamists in the world who are determined to kill us, and the US needs to resolutely defeat them.  No word on how to tell the radicals from the moderates, or if there is any solution other than a military one.  Just a recipe for open-ended war against an undefined enemy.

You might think, “Well, this is all for the cameras, and they’re just venting.”  But the crowd at the RNC (unfortunately) holds a significant amount of political power in this country.  Reinforcing the theme of Islam being the enemy will seep in at the convention and emerge later in the form of discriminatory surveillance, lopsided laws that treat Muslims as guilty until proven innocent, and and increased desire to bomb the hell out of any Muslim country that doesn’t toe the US line.

To tell you the truth, I’m not scared.  In my experience, this country has far more reasonable people in it than the crowd chanting “USA! USA!” with anger in their eyes during Romney’s speech.  In the wake of 9/11, far more Americans offered comfort to the Muslims I know than offered insults.  (No prize for guessing the political orientation of those two groups of people.)  But I am upset that politicians feel they need to resort to declarations of war to get themselves elected, and saddened that they are oblivious to the very real damage the cause to decent American citizens who work hard, pay their taxes, and don’t deserve to be lumped into the same category as those who perpetrated 9/11.”

NOTE:  Statistics gathered for 2006 by the National Counterterrorism Center of the United States indicated that “Islamic extremism” was responsible for approximately a quarter of all terrorism fatalities worldwide.  What about the perpetrators of the other 75%?  Should they not be of some concern?


American Muslims Must Accept That They Are Not Equivalent to Real Americans, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/american_muslims_must_accept_that_they_are_not_equivalent_to_real_americans/

Are Muslims “The Enemy Within?”, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/are_muslims_the_enemy_within1/

Avoiding a Clash of Civilizations, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/avoiding_a_clash_of_civilizations/

Blowback from the GOP’s Holy War, Juan Cole http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2008/02/01/islamophobia/

Counterproductive Counterterrorism: How Anti-Islamic Rhetoric is Impeding America’s Homeland Security http://www.mpac.org/article.php?id=354

Economic Justice: A Cure for Terrorism, Dr. Robert D. Crane http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/terrorism_economic_justice_a_cure_for_terrorism/

Fighting Words: The Abuse of Islam in Political Rhetoric, L. Ali Khan http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/fighting_words_the_abuse_of_islam_in_political_rhetoric/

Free Speech, or Weapons Free? Anti-Islamic Invective and War, M. Junaid Levesque-Alam http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/free_speech_or_weapons_free_anti_islamic_invective_and_war/0016624

Giuliani Campaign Hits New Lows in Polls With Rise In Anti-Muslim Rhetoric http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/giuliani_campaign_hits_new_lows_in_polls_with_rise_in_anti_muslim_rhetoric/

Hostilities Escalate In a War Of Words http://www.theledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060819/COLUMNISTS0402/608190318/1326

Is it a war with Islamic terrorists? http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/22/AR2007122201492.html

Is There Such a Thing As Religious Terrorism?, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/is_there_such_a_thing_as_religious_terrorism/

Islamic Fascists?, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islamic_fascists1/

Islamic or Muslim Terrorism and Extremism:  Are they all Contradictions in Terms?, Jeremy Henzell-Thomas http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islamic_or_muslim_terrorism_and_extremism_are_they_all_contradictions_in_te/

Islamic Terrorism?, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islamic_terrorism1/

‘Islamic terrorism’ an insult that distorts reality, Jimmy E. Jones http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islamic_terrorism_an_insult_that_distorts_reality/

Islamophobia does not represent American values, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islamophobia_does_not_represent_american_values/

Islamophobia and Arabophobia, Laying the Groundwork: Us vs. Them, Sheila Musaji http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islamophobia_laying_the_groundwork_us_vs_them/0016128

Islamophobia in the Presidential Elections, Malik Mujahid http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islamophobia_in_the_presidential_elections

Judeo-Christo-Fascism Awareness Week Comes to American Campuses!, Rabbi Arthur Waskow http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/judeo_christo_fascism_awareness_week_comes_to_american_campuses/

McCain still confused about al Qaeda and Iran http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/03/19/mccain/index.html

Moral Superiority, 9/11, Islamic-Fascism - The Smokescreens of War, Imraan Siddiqi http://www.counterpunch.org/siddiqi08052006.html

Muslim Violence, Christian Non-Violence:  People in Glass Houses Should Not Throw Words, Sheila Musaji http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/muslim_violence_christian_non_violence_people_in_glass_houses_should_not_th/

The Muslims Are Here!  The Muslims Are Here!, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/the_muslims_are_here_the_muslims_are_here/

Neo-Kharijite’s Not Islamic Fascists, Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/neo_kharijites_not_islamic_fascists/

Obama/Kerry Incident Proves “Muslim” Is the New “N” Word, Sheila Musaji http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/obama_kerry_incident_proves_muslim_is_the_new_n_word/

Oxymorons in the News Media, Enver Masud http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/oxymorons_in_the_news_media/

Religio-Fascists in Our Midst (4 parts), Farish A. Noor http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/religious_extremism_religio_fascists_in_our_midst_part_i/

Resources for Responding to Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islamo_fascism_awareness_week/

Saying ‘Islamic Fascists’ May Defeat Bush’s Purpose, Parvez Ahmed http://www.arabnews.com/?page=7&section=0&article=77812&d=13&m=8&y=2006

Selective Hearing of Muslim Voices Against Extremism and Terrorism, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/selective_hearing_of_muslim_voices_against_extremism_and_terrorism/

Should McCain Reject and Denounce Minister Rod Parsley?, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/will_mccain_denounce_or_reject_minister_rod_parsley/

Should John McCain reject and denounce Minister John Hagee?, Anisa Abd El Fattah http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/should_john_mccain_reject_and_denounce_minister_john_hagee/

Should Muslim Americans Be Afraid, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/should_muslim_americans_be_afraid/

“Terrorism” & “Islamo-Fascism” Propaganda Campaigns http://www.ccun.org/Editorials/2007/October%20articles/Terrorism%20&%20Islamo-Fascism%20Propaganda%20Campaigns%20A%20Lecture%20By%20Dr.%20Hassan%20Ali%20El-Najjar.htm

US primaries anti-Islam terminology due to Muslims’ inaction, absence http://www.khabrein.info/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=11675&Itemid=88

War and Words, by Hendrik Hertzberg http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/02/13/060213ta_talk_hertzberg

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‘War on Terror’ Rhetoric Sounds Like War on Islam, Parvez Ahmed http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/war_on_terror_rhetoric_sounds_like_war_on_islam/

War on Terror Produces War of Words, By Mohamed Elshinnawi http://www.voanews.com/english/archive/2006-08/2006-08-17-voa70.cfm

What exactly is fascism? http://people.howstuffworks.com/fascism.htm

What is Islamofascism?, Jack Hunter http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A38540

When Language Grows Darker and Darker, Joan Chittister http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/when_language_grows_darker_and_darker/

Whitehall draws up new rules on language of terror http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,,2251965,00.html

Will John McCain have the decency to apologize to American Muslims?, Mike Ghouse http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/will_john_mccain_have_the_decency_to_apologize_to_american_muslims/

Who is the Fascist Here?, Charles Evans http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_charles__060824_who_is_the_fascist_h.htm

Wrong War, Wrong Word http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060911/pollitt