Saturday, September 12, 2009
Another asymptotic cacophemism to add to the “-ist” list
As I noted over two years ago here in an essay The Camel in the Room: Prefixes, Suffixes, Qualifers and Euphemisms, the West has developed a variety of ways through terminology to avoid “the camel in the room”—Islam—when talking about the problem Islam is causing: Wahhabist, Salafist, Islamist, extremist, and so on.
I’m afraid we have to add to that list the pet term of Robert Spencer himself: Jihadist. Spencer has written numerous times that what concerns him is not Muslims per se, but only Jihadists. And he is on record as writing that Islam per se is not the problem, but rather “elements of Islam”. Thus, in its Spencerian context, the cacophemistic term Jihadist is solidly asymptotic, even if, paradoxically, among many of his followers the term tends to be used metonymically for Muslim, and even though, ironically, the ever-burgeoning mountain—or rather volcano—of data amassed by Spencer himself over the years, documenting the dangerous evil of Islam, massively indicates otherwise.
I recently pointed out the problem of the term in a comments field of a Jihad Watch article which Spencer had characteristically editorialized with this remark:
. . . what have “the muslim people” ever done to me? Why, nothing. It's what the jihadists among “the muslim people” are doing to others that I am concerned about.
Hugh Fitzgerald tried to defend the term’s supposedly synecdochal function—basically through a theory by which innumerable Muslims in general (all Muslims? the vast majority of Muslims? most Muslims? a slim majority of Muslims? a large minority of Muslims? Hugh, of course, leaves these questions unassuaged) are subsumed under the rubric of Jihadist insofar as those innumerable Muslims can be said to “further”, as he puts it, “the Jihad or struggle to remove all obstacles to the spread, and then the dominance, of Islam.”
In my counter-argument to this, I noted:
All Muslims who are not actively opposing the supremacist expansionism of Islam (= “the spread, and then the dominance, of Islam”) would fit Hugh’s definition. And how many Muslims does that leave—who are actively opposing the supremacist expansionism of Islam? I’d say zero, as far as we can tell for the pragmatic purposes of our #1 priority: our safety. For this reason, as well as for the other reason to which Hugh alludes—viz., the vulnerability of the term Jihadist to be exploited by those who seek to marginalize the problem of Islam in order to exempt Islam from scrutiny let alone the condemnation it deserves, a vulnerability Hugh glosses over rather too hastily—the term Muslim (or perhaps better yet, Mohammedan) is to be preferred to Jihadist.
To which I would add, by way of conclusion, that insofar as we, in terms of the War of Ideas sphere of the Anti-Islam Movement, endeavor to avoid the powerful trend still prevailing throughout the West—namely, the trend that, through the use of various descriptive terms, tends to avoid “the camel in the room” and thus whitewashes Islam and exculpates the vast majority of Muslims—we must counter that powerful trend with our own rhetoric (rhetoric in the classical sense, meaning language in the service of sociopolitical persuasion): And with regard to the problem of Islam and the problem of the Muslims who by their very existence as well as through their passive enablement and active engagement continue to advance Islam and its inherent expansionist supremacism, the term that focuses on the heart of that problem, and the term that embraces the widest possible population of its supporters, are the more pertinent terms.
It should be up to Muslims and their Western apologists to prove to us that these terms—namely, Islam and Muslims—are inappropriate. It should not be our job to use terms that implicitly tend to presume that proof as already a given, and thus to hand to them, on a silver platter, ways for them to continue to exploit their propaganda.