Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Radical Islam

I keep hearing conservative critics lambasting President Obama again and again over his refusal to say the words “radical Islam” when talking about terrorism. 

The phrase has become a talisman of the right, a magic charm that if uttered, so it seems, would alone deal a huge blow to Daesh and its brainwashed followers. For me, it's hard to imagine how that particular combination of words coming from Obama’s mouth would strike a lot of fear into the heart of bloodthirsty miscreants in Raqqa. Seriously. It seems drone strikes would be more effective.

Anyway, I saw in a comment thread somewhere on the Internet recently what I thought was a very insightful comment (not “incite-ful”, which is rare for the Internet).

The commentator pointed out that the word “radical” in “radical Islam” can be seen as either a descriptor or an intensifier. As a descriptor, it clarifies what kind of Islam we’re talking about, as in the same way “fundamentalist Christianity” denotes a more conservative form of that diverse religious belief. "Radical Islam" is thus differentiated from, let’s say, mainstream Islam.

On the other hand, “radical” used as an intensifier is a whole other kettle of fish. In this sense, it highlights some essential nature of the word that follows.

The Internet commentator offered an example from the Cold War, a time when many conservatives in the US railed against “Godless Communism”. By using this choice phrase, the John Birch Society and its ilk certainly didn't intend to single out the unbelieving Communists for abuse, compared to those saintly Christian Communists. “Godlessness” was understood to be an inherent part of Communism, baked in to the Marxist cake, so to speak. Tacking on the word “Godless” just ensured that no right-thinking American overlooked this little detail.

The astute Internet commentator went on to say he or she suspected that folks who are most obsessed with the term “radical Islam” are using it like the McCarthite reactionaries of old did. That is, they see all Islam as radical by definition, and they want to make sure everyone knows it. 

Judging by how much anti-Islamic blather I see on the Internet scoffing at the very existence of “moderate Islam”, I have to think the commentator is onto something.

No wonder President Obama wisely declines to play along with that game.

1 comment:

  1. Ask them if they want to use the modifier for Christianity or Judaism or Capitalism.

    One of my favorite inane terms from those same folk is "moderate rebels". So ridiculous it's hard to laugh at the stupidity on display for anyone using it.