Why Extremism Can Not Be Labeled

Image via Internet.

Image via Internet.

The discussion in the news media in the past few days has been regarding President Obama’s comments, the name of the terrorist group known as IS, ISIL, ISIS or Daesh, and whether this is a “religious” group or “just” extremists.

The majority of US mainstream media does not grasp the complexity of this terror organization. Unwilling to think outside the box of predisposed personal biases toward their own faiths, they can not grasp that Muslims are facing the same complication within Islam when  Daesh claims their name.

As we have pointed out in a past article, attempting to put simple labels on complex ideologies is not only dangerous, it is misguided and, when coming from media outlets, is also unethical.

Take a deep breath and we will explain our reasoning. For the sake of clarity, we refer to IS, ISIS or ISIL as Daesh. This is a term used throughout the Arab world and the international media. Daesh is an adapted acronym of their Arabic name – Dawlat al-Islamiyah f’al-Iraq w Belaad al-Sham – is similar to another Arabic word – das – which means ‘to trample down’ or ‘crush’, and is considered an insult.

We choose this name for two reasons; first, it insults and offends Daesh. The group hates it so much, in fact, that they have threatened to cut out the tongues of anyone who uses it in public. Secondly, we believe that using the word “Islamic” in connection to such a group blurs the line between a noble faith and a terror group clinging to the ideologies of a past civilization’s views that has not adapted to accepted Muslim teachings of modern Islam. We are not alone. From last September:

‘I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims and Islamists. The Arabs call it ‘Daesh,’ and I will be calling them the ‘Daesh cutthroats.’   (Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister)

Within Christianity, we have several denominations that interpret the same biblical text in quite different views. Sit a devout Catholic and a practicing Baptist down for a theology discussion and see how long it takes for an argument to break out. Those that don’t “fit” within the recognized denominations of Christianity will not be claimed by any of them. Instead, we call it a “cult” and blame the leader. David Koresh. Jim Jones. Scott Roeder. Marshall Herff Applewhite. Timothy McVeigh. Ted Kaczynski. Do you get the point?

Now we’ll play the next round. al-Qaeda. al-Shabaab. Boko Haram. Islamic State. ISIS. ISIL. al-Nusra. Do you see a pattern here? We most certainly do.

So WHY on earth would you expect EVERY Muslim in the world to adhere to the ideologies of a group that, if connected to Christianity, would be labeled a cult? Are Muslims not entitled to variances within their faith the same as “Christians”?

When three Muslim students were murdered in a hate crime on the campus of Chapel Hill, we paused long enough to bestow dignity on three remarkable and beautiful lives that had been full of promise for the future. Their mission was one of complete giving in peace to help those less fortunate with the talents and gifts given them. Were we willing to mourn because the shooter was an atheist, and none of the “Christians” had to claim him within their biased faiths?

This is why insisting on a label – and allowing the discussion to focus on that point alone, makes any progress toward understanding, and thus defeating, Daesh an impossible task. The argument is not about labeling them and calling them this name or that name. It is about how to save all of humanity from their vile influence.

Like journalism, being Muslim is not a crime.

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