The European Union, tiptoeing through a minefield of religious and cultural sensitivities, is discreetly reviewing the language it uses to describe terrorists who claim to act in the name of Islam.
EU officials are working on what they call a “lexicon” for public communication on terrorism and Islam, designed to make clear that there is nothing in the religion to justify outrages like the September 11 attacks or the bombings of Madrid and London. The lexicon would set down guidelines for EU officials and politicians.
“Certainly ‘Islamic terrorism’ is something we will not use … we talk about ‘terrorists who abusively invoke Islam’,” an EU official told Reuters. Other terms being considered by the review include “Islamist”, “fundamentalist” and “jihad”.
The latter, for example, is often used by al Qaeda and some other groups to mean warfare against infidels, but for most Muslims indicates a spiritual struggle. “Jihad means something for you and me, it means something else for a Muslim. Jihad is a perfectly positive concept of trying to fight evil within yourself,” said the official, speaking anonymously because the review is an internal one that is not expected to be made public.
EU counter-terrorism chief Gijs de Vries told Reuters that terrorism was not inherent to any religion, and praised moderate Muslims for opposing attempts to hijack Islam.
“They have been increasingly active in isolating the radicals who abuse Islam for political purposes, and they deserve everyone’s support. And that includes the choice of language that makes clear that we are talking about a murderous fringe that is abusing a religion and does not represent it.”
This is the sort of thing that reduces Robert Spencer to apoplexy.
Update: Yes, predictably, Spencer is not pleased, particularly with the stuff about the concept of jihad encompassing spiritual struggle when, as he never ceases to tell us, “the word in the Qur’an is clear, and it means warfare”.
Giraldus Cambrensis also takes exception to the EU position on jihad: “I should here remind readers that the title of Hitler’s book Mein Kampf also meant ‘my struggle’.”