The hate that dare not speak its name
Janet Albrechtsen July 29, 2009
LANGUAGE police should stop tiptoeing and call these terrorists what they are: Islamo-fascists.
THE bodies of slain Australians in Jakarta were not yet back in the country when a new report warned us last week against referring to Islamo-fascists as -- dare one say it -- Islamo-fascists.
If we want to reduce alienation and radicalism among young Muslims we must watch our language, says A Lexicon on Terror, a book compiled by the Victoria Police and the Australian Multicultural Foundation.Multicultural Foundation head Hass Dellal told The Age that the wholesale branding of Islam with violence and extremism was of great concern.
Speaking at a conference last week Stephen Fontana, the assistant commissioner for counter-terrorism co-ordination, said that "a comment we think is harmless, some communities read as an attack".
Would someone kindly lock up these language police for crimes against the English language? An attack is what happened in Jakarta when innocent hotel guests were murdered at the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels. And it is, quite literally, the bleeding obvious to point out that the perpetrators of the carnage are a group of Islamist militants who twist the tenets of Islam to suit their ideological purposes. They seek to bring down democracy in Indonesia and punish Western nations for fighting the Taliban and al-Qa'ida, with the ultimate aim of creating an Islamic caliphate. Yet while these terrorists go to great lengths to promote their Muslim identity and their militant Islamist ideology, it seems we are not allowed to mention that now.
There is nothing wrong with crafting careful language when dealing with terrorism. For years political leaders have used terms such as Islamist terrorist or Islamo-fascist to carefully distinguish militants from the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims. But there is a difference between being careful and being cowardly. The kind of zealous language policing endorsed by the Victoria Police and the Multicultural Foundation encourages us to hide from the truth.
Their new whitewash language is not just daft, it's dangerous. Clarity of language is a critical tool if we are serious about uncovering and understanding militant Islam. After so many attacks and the murder of so many innocent people, why would we cower from identifying the drivers of their Islamist extremism?
Yet there was too much cowering and not enough clarity from Attorney-General Robert McClelland when he addressed the Australian Strategic Policy Institute last week. Endorsing the language police's Lexicon of Terrorism project, the A-G's speech was littered with references to "violent extremism", "violent extremists", "violent extremist messages", "extremist beliefs" and "extremist ideology". McClelland was too frightened to construct a sentence that included the word Islamism. Instead he quoted from Ed Husain, in his book The Islamist, who has no problem referring to "Islamist extremists".
Apparently the A-G believes it is acceptable for a Muslim to speak with factual accuracy but the rest of us must resort to meaningless generalities for fear of radicalising Muslim youth.
The suggestion from McClelland and senior police that using terms such as Islamo-fascists may drive young Muslims into the arms of jihadists is dubious. I'm willing to wager that those drawn to violence have other matters on their minds and other forces pulling them towards violence than the language employed by Westerners.
If we submit a questionnaire to young would-be jihadists asking them to list, on a scale of one to 100, the reasons they might choose jihad over, say, becoming a pastry chef or a train driver, I'm guessing none are going to suggest they are fed-up with the way Westerners used the term Islamo-fascist. Instead, they may list matters such as hating democracy, achieving glory for Islam and Muslims, destroying the infidel enemies around them, wanting to bring to account those countries that sent infidel troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, and so on. That's what the present generation of Islamist terrorists tells us and it may be useful to take them at their word.
In the A-G's woolly world, how exactly does a newspaper report on Islamic militancy if the only acceptable phrase is "violent extremism"? The Australian's Sally Neighbour has done a stellar job reporting on the role played by Islamic boarding schools such as al-Mukmin at Ngruki in Solo, Central Java, in the violent campaign to set up an Indonesian Islamic state. Described by its co-founder and Jemaah Islamiah leader Abu Bakar Bashir as "a crucible for the formation of cadres of mujaheddin" with a mission "to nurture zeal for jihad so that love for jihad and martyrdom grow in the soul of the mujaheddin", it becomes clear that Islam is used to fuel violence among young Muslim men.
As Neighbour reported last week, "The Ngruki school and others linked to JI -- chiefly the Darul Syahadah ('house of martyrs') and Al Muttaqin schools, both in Central Java -- have produced no less than dozens of young recruits linked to a string of terrorist attacks, starting with the first Bali bombings in 2002."
Would the A-G have us refrain from reporting the truth, that a handful of radical Islamic schools is a breeding ground for Islamist terrorists?
There are no such sensibilities about calling a spade a bloody shovel when Christian extremists firebomb abortion clinics. No concerns about wholesale branding of Christianity by using the Christian word. Nor is there a fear that using the word will radicalise young Christians. In other areas, too, we don't shy away from using descriptors to explain extremism.More :
The Age reports
:A guidebook for politicians, police and public servants on how to talk about Muslims and terrorism without implicating the religion of Islam should be released by the end of the year.
Peter Costello on the bigotry of Victoria’s anti-discrimination police and their censorious masters: