Who is an ‘Islamist’ and Why it Matters

Claptrap. Here we never  use the  term ‘Islamist’ – because there is no difference between the Muslim in a suit who works for the stealth jihad or the bearded freak who protests in the street or goes to Afghanistan to become a ‘martyr’. The clean shaven Muslim who seems well integrated is in no way less dangerous. Especially not if he supports the global jihad with money, dawa, logistics or by the pen.

By: J. E. Dyer/ Jewish Press

The great moral question for us today – the question that defines our hope for civilization and a future – is not what Islam is, but who we are, and whether we will embrace our heritage of freedom.

The Associated Press has decided that the word “Islamist” may not be used to describe anything objectionable.  The Jewish Press’s Lori Lowenthal Marcus calls out the relevant passage from the news service’s newly revised stylebook:

[An Islamist is] an advocate of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam.  Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.

Hmmm.  It’s an interesting question who will be called an Islamist by A.P. writers, given this definition.

Who is an Islamist?

Presumably, Mohammed Morsi could be called an Islamist by the A.P. – unless the second sentence above cancels out the first, making it impossible to call anyone an “Islamist.” And maybe that’s the case; if so, defining “Islamist” is an exercise in futility for the A.P.

But will Morsi be called an Islamist?  By the letter of the A.P. definition, being labeled an Islamist would put Morsi in company with Hamas, the Iranian clerical council, and the Taliban.  He belongs there, of course, but will that association be considered politically correct, given that the U.S. government is committed to Morsi’s success, and continues to deliver arms to him?

Hamas and the Taliban are terrorist organizations, but are or have been government authorities as well (the latter aspiring to be one again), reordering government and society precisely in accordance with laws they deem to be prescribed by Islam.  Iran’s leaders sponsor terrorism, as well as doing the reordering thing in the name of Islam.

In fact, Hizballah fits the bill as well, being a terrorist organization which currently governs Lebanon.  Among this terrorist-governing group, Hizballah may have made the least effort to reorder government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam.  But then, Hizballah governs a tiny, fractious, all-but-ungovernable nation with mostly porous borders, and in that role has been more concerned since January 2011 with holding power than with remaking society.  Does that mean there is some meaningful sense in which Hezbollah is not “Islamist” – even though it proclaims sharia and holds its political goals in common with Hamas and Iran (and has considerable overlap with Morsi in Egypt)?

Perhaps the seemingly narrow A.P. definition of “Islamist” is meant to ensure that only those who advocate Islamism from the more consensual environment of Western liberal societies will meet it.  This proposition will run into its own set of troubles, however, partly because radicals like Britain’s Anjem Choudary, who have been, so to speak, the face of Islamism in the West, might be considered ineligible for the title due to their explosively radical demeanor.  If Choudary isn’t an Islamist, who is?

That remains a good question, considering that other, more mainstream Western organizations may have ties through their leadership, like CAIR’s, to the Muslim Brotherhood and even terrorist groups, but they do not overtly propose to reorder government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam.  Does that mean they are not Islamist?  And if not, what does that mean?

At present, CAIR’s efforts are not focused directly on reordering government and society, but rather on undermining one of the essential pillars of Western civilization: unfettered pursuit of the truth – about radical Islam as about anything else.  Government agencies, with their top-down institutional pieties, are an easy target for outright censorship in this regard.

The A.P. Stylebook revision is something different, and perhaps more insidious.  Presumably, an A.P. writer would not refer to CAIR’s involvement in redefining “Islamist” as a method of Islamism, although it is one.  And, in fairness, there is a good case to be made that rewriting definitions for political reasons is something the Western left requires no prompting to do.  Need it be “Islamist” to define categories prejudicially?  It certainly doesn’t have to be “Islamist” to label anyone whose arguments you don’t like a “racist.”  The Western left thought that one up all on its own.

The lack of firm ground to stand on in this analysis is quintessential in the propositions of radicals.  Corruption and politicization of the language are common radical tactics.  Whom, exactly, can an A.P. writer call an Islamist, given all these factors?  The antiseptic definition of Islamism approved by CAIR might apply only to Islamic theoreticians who never actually engage in political advocacy – if there are any.

My guess is:  it will effectively apply to no one.  Although “Islamist” has been redefined to make it sound as if sharia advocates are moderates, the easily-unearthed associations of political sharia advocates with violent or Bolshevik-pattern radicals will tar all Islamists with the same brush – which, frankly, is ground truth anyway.  But since it is inconvenient truth, A.P. writers won’t be able to find a use for “Islamist.”

Why we need the term “Islamist”

And that is a real problem.  It’s not a problem because the distinction between political sharia advocates and violent cadre is strategically important; it’s a problem because distinguishing between radicalized/politicized advocacy groups and the non-radicalized/politicized mass of Muslims is important.

There are still millions of Muslims throughout the world who are not political advocates of sharia.  This doesn’t mean that such people don’t have a hazy vision of there someday being a sharia caliphate; many of them probably have that vision.  But they are no more energized to go out with heat-seeking missiles (or lawyers) and “immanentize the eschaton” than are Christians who foresee the day when Jesus will come again, or Jews who believe that they are still waiting for the Messiah.

There must remain a political space in which the non-radicalized can continue to be non-radicalized.  The West is uniquely equipped to provide it, and it is in both our interests – the West’s and the non-radicalized Muslim world’s – that we do so.  Modern Muslims have lived peacefully in the West for decades, because most of them have not been “Islamists”:  advocates of reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam.  Islamist leaders do not acknowledge the distinction between themselves and the non-radicalized Muslim citizens of Western nations – but the Western nations must.  It is in our best interest not only to acknowledge it but to ensure that it is a basis for policy.

The broader basis for a winning Western approach

In my view, the use of the “Islamist” distinction, while it is important, should not be the main focus of Western dialogue on this matter.  What must be most important to us is to enforce traditional Western beliefs about freedom, tolerance, the rule of law and the underpinnings of civilization.  This doesn’t mean forcing them on others; it means protecting them within our borders, advocating them in international and cross-cultural discourse, and privileging them, alongside other considerations, in our decisions about foreign relations and trade.

Western freedom, including freedom of intellectual inquiry, freedom of speech, and freedom of public advocacy, has never been the norm around the world.  It always requires commitment and positive protection, because it is always under attack.  Remembering that fact is essential in considering our relations with the Islamic world, so that we will not get our feelings hurt or give in to fearful, unwary surprise when there is push-back against our level of freedom.

America’s Founders and our British forebears, believed that men have a natural right to these freedoms.  They also believed that when this right is honored and protected, the freedom that results brings an unparalleled payoff in social goods.  People are at their best when their freedoms are protected.  They live in peace with their neighbors; they have a hopeful view of the future; they produce, trade, invent, enjoy, and give with unequaled fervor and success; and they exercise more tolerance than they do under more restrictive social and governmental organizations.  The Founders did not prize rights and freedoms merely as negative injunctions against the overuse of state power.  They prized them because of their unique positive results.

If we do not find in ourselves the same belief, we will lose our freedoms.  We must believe in them, to such an extent that we advocate, enforce, and defend them even when some claim that they are offensive or racist.

We must have the confidence to affirm – and act as if – our freedoms are not offensive or racist.  We must do this without caveat or exception.  This means, for example, that it is not offensive or racist for the prevailing society to enforce safety for women walking the city streets unveiled, regardless of who is a majority in the neighborhood; nor to enforce safety for gays coming out of bars at night; or for Jews attending school (see here for a general summary of increasing attacks on Jews in Europe); or for Christians mounting a public protest; or for cartoonists who depict Mohammed in print.

Nor is it racist or offensive for Western governments to ensure that all their citizens have the same rights in divorce proceedings or domestic disputes, or that the laws on polygamy apply equally to all.  It may be anti-libertarian, but it is not racist, for Western local governments to require that cab drivers accept passengers carrying dogs or bottles of liquor.  Often, applying the law equally means that some end up dissatisfied, but the West has learned the benefits of having a government of laws and not of men.

Freedom of intellectual inquiry is a highly prized Western value; Islam, like all other religions or philosophical ideas, will have to live with criticism in the West.  Period.  Sometimes that criticism will take an annoying or deliberately provocative form.  Too bad.  Our rules work better than anyone else’s ever have to foster hope and prosperity for the people.  There’s a reason we don’t get into blood feuds over verbal provocations: because it’s stupid and destructive.  Governments owe it to their people, and individuals owe it to their families and friends, to refrain from such counterproductive pursuits.

Muslims versus “Islamists”

Millions of Muslims have lived successfully in the Western societies that honor these principles.  The issue is not whether Islam is better at promoting some other idea of social harmony and value.  The West must not be the battleground for settling that question.  The issue for the West must be that what we believe in and have cultivated works well, and accords with our most basic beliefs about the rights and dignities of humanity.  We find it to be a good, productive, and necessary way to live – we find it to be moral and honorable – and we will enforce it on our territory.  Muslims who choose to live among us will have to respect our code.

Most of them have, over the years.  Most of them will continue to do so, and be good citizens whom we are happy to have as neighbors – if we provide the safe space in which they can make the choice.

The predators seeking to void that space are the Islamists.  To make policy decisions that safeguard the quiescent space of freedom, we must distinguish between Muslim people, many of whom are prepared to worship and proselytize in an atmosphere of freedom and non-compulsion, and Islamism as an ideological, political-authoritarian motivation.  For the sake of the West – indeed, in my view, for the sake of all mankind – there has to be a method of making this distinction rhetorically.

The future of Islamism…

I call ideological advocacy for sharia “Islamism,” and associate it where justified with radical violence.  But the most important trend today is what I call “state-Islamism,” which is the specific focus on taking over the governments of armed nations and imposing sharia from the halls of political power.

Iran effectively launched this trend in 1979 and the Taliban continued it after the Soviet troops left Afghanistan.  In different ways, Erdogan has been putting his own stamp on this trend in Turkey; and Hizballah, Fatah, and Hamas have been maneuvering into more-or-less-governmental positions on the territories over which they hold sway.  Algeria, Somalia, and Yemen have all dealt for decades with factions aspiring to impose sharia from the seat of national government; other African nations like Nigeria and Kenya are seeing such factions emerge.   Now Morsi is busy imposing sharia on Egypt, and Tunisia looks virtually certain to become a sharia state as well.  The fight for Syria is a fight over the imposition of sharia – and if the Islamists win there, Iraq and Jordan will be on borrowed time as non-sharia-subverted states.

The more established the state-Islamist trend becomes, the more important it will be for Western nations to have a well-defined policy for preserving, in our own social and civic arrangements, our Western heritage of freedom.  Men live their lives on territory, and territory must be held for particular values if those values are to thrive and set an example.  Sharia is antithetical to our heritage; Islamists, in their various methods, oppose and attack that heritage, meaning to exclude it, gradually, from territory around the earth.  It will become only more important over time for us to have a way of talking about this.

… and the West

But we can take a cue from Ronald Reagan in maintaining our fundamental posture.  Reagan knew that the biggest advantage America and the West had in the Cold War was not gained through properly defining the threat of communism – although that was important.  The biggest advantage was the West’s own character and beliefs, which continued over the years to widen the divide between the failures of communism and the successes of freedom.  This was the case even in the West’s deep political funk of the late 1960s and 1970s.  The divide continued to grow, even then, and the flow of immigration was still all one direction, even when many in the West’s “elites” were claiming to despise Western freedom.

The most important thing the West can do today is recover our ideas about freedom and what it’s good for.  If we do that, it will be glaringly obvious that freedom is better.  The truth is that freedom is stronger, when men and women are committed to it; if it were not, it could not have won out over all the forces arrayed against it throughout human history.  It can do so again, if we are not faint of heart.

The great moral question for us today – the question that defines our hope for civilization and a future – is not what Islam is, but who we are, and whether we will embrace our heritage of freedom.  The proximate political question is what we will cede to Islamists, whose patterns are very identifiable and whose demands are specific.  The answer to that question must come, not from what we fear, but from what we believe to be right.  If we look to our heritage of freedom, we will answer it well.

Originally published at the Optimistic Conservative, under the title, ““Islamism” and the West: How do you solve a problem like the AP Stylebook?”

12 thoughts on “Who is an ‘Islamist’ and Why it Matters”

  1. I use the word Islamist when addressing any muslim action. All muslims are Islamists if they follow the koran.

  2. Islam-What is it?
    Communism? What is it?

    The West has no clue, because they are political/religious threats used to oppress the people of the West,to benefit the leaders, so submit to Islam and save your souls.

    Americans are oppressors of themselves and oppressors of the children of God and they live in this perpetual self-inflicted injustice, unaware of their plight. Why not leave your darkness and difficulty and enter into Islam? I invite you all to accept Islam and save yourselves. Leave your chains of poverty and let not racism and cultural fear prevent you from accepting the word of God when you know it is the truth and do not procrastinate in finding out about the justice of Islam, lest your souls leave you and you enter the hellfire

    1. “Muslims are oppressors of themselves and oppressors of the children of God and they live in this perpetual self-inflicted injustice, unaware of their plight.”

      There you go, fixed it.

      “I invite you all to accept Islam and save yourselves. Leave your chains of poverty and let not racism and cultural fear prevent you from accepting the word of God”

      Muslims can’t even save their dogs from starvation, that’s why they migrate to the west, in the millions

      “Chains of poverty?”

      90% of muslims are ignorant, illiterate and poor because of Islam and you babble stupidly about saving ourselves?

      You can’t even feed yourselves!

  3. @Tom

    Stop proselytizing. No one here is feeble minded enough to be converted to Islam.

    You presume much. There is no difficulty, poverty or darkness here only light. A light that shines upon the malevolent ugliness that is Islam.

    Racism? What racism? Islam is not a race but a lifestyle choice.

  4. Sadist Allah vs. fictional construct “Islamist”

    10:4 “… unbelievers drink boiling water”, 5:33 “crucifixion who made mischief (trouble)” …

  5. The first sentence in the AP statement that Lori calls out is true. Of the majority of Muslims. The label game regarding which terms the media will use can be insidious. I don’t know about the rest of the USA, but in Arizona the term “Illegal Alien” has morphed within local media to “Undocumented Citizen”.

  6. @Torked,

    How on earth are they citizens? Citizenship is defined as being born in a specific country or to be “legally accepted as a permanent resident.” (Definition via Bing)

    Illegals are neither.

    So what are legal immigrants? Documented citizens?

  7. “Undocumented citizens”, eh? Well, that’s the first time I’ve heard the term “citizen” for a while. I thought we had all morphed into simple “customers”.
    But illegal immigrants have that status now…oh, of course: the noble suffering ones who just need a spot of “citizenship” in our Western countries.

    1. All part of Agenda 21.

      Change the language, change the perception, change the laws and the system.

      One World government; communism, ‘eat the rich’ BS, its all part of the great game.

  8. Re: “Why we need the term “Islamist” ” (to differentiate between the radicalized and non-radicalized moslem criminals). INCORRECT – there are no moderate moslems, simply because thereis no “moderate” islam!
    EVERYTHING ABOUT ISLAM IS “RADICAL:” ITS ONLY AN EXTORTION RACKET DELIBERATELY AND SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED TO SUBDUE AND REPLACE ALL OTHER RELIGIONS AND PEOPLES UNTIL THE ENTIRE WORLD HAS BEEN CONQUERED “FOR ALLAH!”

    And so, Re: “There must remain a political space in which the non-radicalized can continue to be non-radicalized. The West is uniquely equipped to provide it, and it is in both our interests – the West’s and the non-radicalized Muslim world’s – that we do so. ”

    WRONG AGAIN! It is NOT in our best interests to indulge them in their historical lies, whether or not their own ancestors were the bandit-king Muhammad’s first victims, and whether or not they were only inadvertantly born into holy mobster Families. We aren’t doing even the ‘moderate’ moslems any favours by pretending to go along with their delusions that islam is a “race” (at all, much less one of poor, oppressed “People Of Colour”) not that islam is even a “religion” (at all, much less one “Of Peace”)! Islam is ONLY an ancient, ongoing extortion-racket CRIME-syndicate, and the only “religious” part in is, is where they say:

    “God told us to commit these crimes!”

    (Capisce?)!

    Re: “What must be most important to us is to enforce traditional Western beliefs about freedom, tolerance, the rule of law and the underpinnings of civilization. This doesn’t mean forcing them on others”… WRONG AGAIN!

    LAW MUST ALWAYS BE ENFORCED ON CRIMINALS! CRIME MUST ALWAYS BE FOUGHT BY THE CIVILIZED! NO MOSELM CRIMINALS HAS A RIGHT TO REMAIN IRRESPONSIBLY WRONG!

  9. Re: “Why we need the term “Islamist” ” (to differentiate between the radicalized and non-radicalized moslem criminals). INCORRECT – there are no moderate moslems, simply because thereis no “moderate” islam!
    EVERYTHING ABOUT ISLAM IS “RADICAL:” ITS ONLY AN EXTORTION RACKET DELIBERATELY AND SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED TO SUBDUE AND REPLACE ALL OTHER RELIGIONS AND PEOPLES UNTIL THE ENTIRE WORLD HAS BEEN CONQUERED “FOR ALLAH!”

    And so, Re: “There must remain a political space in which the non-radicalized can continue to be non-radicalized. The West is uniquely equipped to provide it, and it is in both our interests – the West’s and the non-radicalized Muslim world’s – that we do so. ”

    WRONG AGAIN! It is NOT in our best interests to indulge them in their historical lies, whether or not their own ancestors were the bandit-king Muhammad’s first victims, and whether or not they were only inadvertantly born into holy mobster Families. We aren’t doing even the ‘moderate’ moslems any favours by pretending to go along with their delusions that islam is a “race” (at all, much less one of poor, oppressed “People Of Colour”) not that islam is even a “religion” (at all, much less one “Of Peace”)! Islam is ONLY an ancient, ongoing extortion-racket CRIME-syndicate, and the only “religious” part in is, is where they say:

    “God told us to commit these crimes!”

    (Capisce?)!

    Re: “What must be most important to us is to enforce traditional Western beliefs about freedom, tolerance, the rule of law and the underpinnings of civilization. This doesn’t mean forcing them on others”… WRONG AGAIN!

    LAW MUST ALWAYS BE ENFORCED ON CRIMINALS! CRIME MUST ALWAYS BE FOUGHT BY THE CIVILIZED! NO MOSELM CRIMINALS HAS A RIGHT TO REMAIN IRRESPONSIBLY WRONG!

    Re: ” Islamist leaders do not acknowledge the distinction between themselves and the non-radicalized Muslim citizens of Western nations – but the Western nations must. It is in our best interest not only to acknowledge it but to ensure that it is a basis for policy.”

    THEY DON’T “ACKNOWLEDGE” THE DISTINCTION BECAUSE THEIR QUR’AN SPECIFICALLY FORBIDS IT, CALLING SUCH SLACKERS “HYPOCRITES” AND APOSTATES WHO MUST BE KILLED ALONG WITH ALL THE OTHER ‘INFIDELS!!!’

    PS: “ILLEGAL ALIENS” ARE NOT CITIZENS (“documented” or otherwise)! An “undocumented citizen” is one who has a valid birth certificate but never bothered to get a Social Security or SIN card or drivers’ license to back it up. In rare cases, one may have been born here of parents living in a trailer who were too drunk to have bothered registering one’s birth at all – but neighbours still can be found, or DNA tests administered, to authenticate your existence and validate your citizenship anyway!

    “ILLEGAL ALIENS” are only criminal TRESPASSERS.

    ;-(

  10. I first saw this term used in a news story in 2013. Previously the politically correct term was “Undocumented Immigrant”. Illegal is Illegal. Put lipstick on the pig, it is still a pig. And when the pig is getting free benefits from American taxpayers it should be illegal, just like these parasites citizenship status. The US should adopt Mexicos immigration laws. How could Mexico complain about that?

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