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Evading the I-word

February 12, 2010 |  2:37 pm

The Washington Times on Friday has an interesting story about the Obama administration's assiduous avoidance of the terms "Islam," "Islamic" and "Islamist" in two studies of the threat  from terrorists. I know: Consider the source. Conservatives have been railing forever about President Obama's aversion to calling a Muslim a Muslim in discussions of the war on terror. But it's still a fascinating factoid.

I think terms like "Islamofascism" are ahistorical as well as inflammatory. All analogies limp, including the comparison George W. Bush tried to draw between Osama bin Laden and Hitler. It's also true that we are not at war against Islam and that the omission of "Islamic" from official descriptions of terrorist isn't at all misleading. We know who's being talked about, and they aren't Catholics or Scientologists.

Moreover, there is danger of giving aid and comfort to patriotic Americans like the evangelist Franklin Graham, who once said:   "The God of Islam is not the same God of the Christian or the Judeo-Christian faith. It is a different God, and I believe a very evil and a very wicked religion." (He later "clarified" his position in a statement that suggested that some of his best friends were Muslims!)

Still,  there ought to a way to acknowledge that the fundamentalism that drives the terrorists we're most afraid of is Islamic fundamentalism -- without encouraging the notion that Islam is the enemy or that most Muslims are terrorists or terrorist sympathizers. If nothing else, it would silence conservatives who insist that Obama is clueless about the war on terror.

--Michael McGough

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