"Avoiding the M-Word":

A good column from Jeff Jacoby (Boston Globe).

Chimaxx (mail):
I;m not as enamored of Jacoby's column as you are.

I especially find his criticism of the third speaker to be without merit: The third speaker, clearly speaking before there was any evidence regarding who had built or placed the bombs, said: "Let's avoid presumptions. . . It can be the work of Muslims, Christians, Jews, or Buddhists"

In the absence of evidence there is nothing outrageous about this, no matter who says it. All it's saying is: Let's not rush to judgment before we have some evidence who did it. (I remember the early radio and TV news reports on the Oklahoma City bombing that jumped to the conclusion that it was the work of, in the terminology of the day, "Middle Eastern terrorists.")

And there's nothing inconsistent between recognizing that the terrorists are motivated by a violent strain of Islam and preferring to refrain from using the phrase "Muslim terrorists," which is a kind of shorthand that obscures more truth than it reveals.
7.11.2007 6:05pm
Very interesting article here in Detroit, speaking to how Muslims see themselves here in the US, including some polling data. Turns out, it ain't much different than how most everybody views themselves here. And note the 2 workshops being held this weekend, listed on the right side of the article. I don't see any car bomb training there.

I live and work with these folks, and my nephew plays on Dearborn Fordson's football team, the one that gathers together to pray to Allah in the end zone before every game, and about every player joins in, with some even observant of Ramadan if it breaks right... no water all day... just practice (and some of the kids refused the local cleric's dispensation from that requirement... you gotta love that commitment.)

I'm all for killing islamofascists, and calling them exactly what they are as Jacoby prods us to do, but there is a certain line we tread at home here, as we go about that necessary business. I think we do a fairly good job of it, and thankfully our history and tradition supports that process, unlike the Brits for example.
7.11.2007 6:27pm
You are wrong about the third speaker, I'm afraid. At the time of these particular comments the identity of the two Glasgow guys was already established, as was the fact that one of them had been shouting "Allah, Allah" whilst setting himself on fire. Actually, both these facts were aired as an intro to his interview, in his presence. It was this disconnect that made his remarks, not exactly newsworthy in themselves, news.

Other than that, Jacoby overlooks something: The British public is by now so well-trained in PC-speak, that everytime somebody on the news mentions "youths", "Asians" or "people of Mediterraniean appearance" (my favourite) in connection with violent misdeeds, the "Muslim" is automatically assumed. When a young Scot named MacGraw, a Hindu Indian or a Greek kicks or kills somebody, these facts are reported in full. Ironically, this is because the newsrooms and agencies noticed that their readers/viewers otherwise assumed that it must have been another Muslim related incident.

Muslims are to violence in the news, as God is to science in intelligend design: In the gaps, but understood.
7.11.2007 6:38pm
Chimaxx (mail):
No, Mactru. It is you who are wrong. The article Jacoby links to clearly says that Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) Daud Abdullah said those words on Saturday, June 30. The suspects were identified on July 2.
7.12.2007 12:43am
Michael B (mail):
Fact is, it was reported almost immediately that one of the Glasgow Airport perps had shouted "Allah, Allah" and MCB's Daud Abdullah was simply asked if Muslim extremists might be behind the attacks. The notion such a question is untoward, given the circumstances, is preposterous and Jacoby merely described Abdullah's response as "disingenuous" and "politically correct" nothing worse. Too, when Jacoby countered he did so via a quote from Hassan Butt, a reformed Muslim radical, not to some categorical, bigoted statement.

Too, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) is not some Amish-styled group, they have direct links with the Muslim Brotherhood, with Hamas and with other radicalized Islamicist groups as well. Here's a note covering a recent report on an MCB frequented mosque, excerpt, emphasis added:

"Channel 4 [infiltrated] the Greenlane Mosque in Birmingham, a favorite of the "moderate" Muslim Council of Britain (and friends of CAIR, ISNA and others here) to hear what was being preached over a period of months.

"The results are why many of us believe we are engaged in a war-not a war against Islam, but yes, a war against Islamists who are intent on destroying us and our way of life.

"This language of hate and conquest is not a secret, it is openly preached. This is not an isolated, renegade mosque on the fringe of the British Islamic community, but the heart of it."

Melanie Phillips adds perspective here and here. For more info on Hassan Butt, the reformed Muslim radical, a piece in the Guardian, authored by him, titled My plea to fellow Muslims: you must renounce terror; h/t Augean Stables.

To ask responsible questions is not to raise the spectre of McCarthyism or witch-hunts or any type of milder bigotry or prejudice; to fail to ask questions is, Jacoby is suggesting, irresponsible. He's likewise suggesting that the PC environment in Britain and elsewhere is serving to unnecessarily rein in people when they otherwise might, or should, ask responsible questions.
7.12.2007 12:15pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I suppose responsible questions are a good idea.

But they don't seem worth the effort in Britain where no conceivable answer can generate action.

"Yeah, chump. And I'm going to blow up Sandhurst next week." Maybe somebody who said that in public would be watched extra carefully. But somebody who said, "Won't somebody blow up Sandhurst pretty damn' quick?" is going to get a pass due to PC.
7.12.2007 1:14pm
Chimaxx (mail):
Mactru: Everything I can find from reputable sources (link 1 indicates that Daud Abdullah's statement was made after the Piccadilly bomb plot was foiled but before the incident at Glasgow airport (where the shout of "Allah, Allah was reported). Indeed, if the comment had been made in reference to both the London cart bombs and the Glasgow bombing, don't you think the original article that carried the quote (the one everyone including Jacoby links back to) would have at least mentioned the Glasgow bombings?

After the Glasgow Airport bombing, Daud Abdullah stood beside Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary-general of the MCB as Bari said ""It looks sadly as if the terror threat currently facing our country will be with us for some time to come. So let us be absolutely clear about this: those who seek to deliberately kill or maim innocent people are the enemies of us all. There is no cause whatsoever that could possibly justify such barbarity. Those who engage in such murderous actions and those who provide support for them are the enemies of all, Muslims and non-Muslims, and they stand against our shared values in the UK … it is our Islamic duty, not only to utterly and totally condemn such evil actions' but to provide all the necessary support to prevent such atrocities from taking place."

Abdullah then added: "We do acknowledge there is a problem of extremism. There is radicalization taking place in our community, and this is a long-term problem. We will work together with our partners in the civil society, with the security agencies, and other faith groups including the larger Muslim community, to address this problem. We however believe that, at the present time, our concern is to denounce unequivocally what has happened in the last week … the problem affects all members of the society. We are all affected and therefore we all have a responsibility to address it. We share a common sense of responsibility also in denouncing it."3

There is nothing PC about wanting to eschew the term "Muslim terrorist"--which even at its best does nothing to illuminate the difference between "a war against Islam" and "a war against Islamists who are intent on destroying us and our way of life" and in practice often serves to muddy that distinction.

Nor is it particularly PC to avoid the empty newspeak of the phrase "War on Terror." Let metaphorical armies take to the metaphysical planes where war can be waged against abstractions like terror, horror and fervor, and let our armies do what they do best: Fight human enemies.

Yes, we have real enemies, and yes their actions are largely driven and fueled by a radical religious ideology, but calling on leaders and journalists to more frequently deploy jingoistic catchphrases and newspeak slogans isn't going to help us win that war.
7.12.2007 3:43pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Sure, Climax.
But there's a problem. When the hoi polloi find themselves stifled as to language, lied to as to what's going on, their response is going to be less measured than perhaps one would wish.
When that happens, the establishment will be seen as allied with the enemy.
Rational.... Maybe, maybe not. But inevitable.
And there are a lot of the hoi polloi. Something to keep in mind when generating feel-good policies that ignore or negatively affect the h-p.
7.12.2007 4:52pm
Chimaxx (mail):
7.12.2007 4:55pm
Michael B (mail):
Both articles, Chimaxx, are likely worthy of consideration; no one is suggesting unwarranted conclusions be reached, what is being suggested is that the right questions be asked. Likewise, it's a red herring to suggest that the interest being expressed is in advancing jingoism and the like. Whether it's the Mumbai train blasts, the Islamic courts in Somalia, the genocide underway in Sudan, the terrorism in southern Thailand, the recent incidents in Britain, 9/11, 3/11, 7/7, the breeding grounds in Waziristan, Istanbul, Casablanca, Bali, the various advances of Wahhabism and Salafism, etc., etc., there is a common thread, and it isn't some generic "religious ideology" that has served as inspiration for those events any more than it was a generic "secular ideology" that inspired Hitler or, differently, Lenin/Stalin. Instead, more apt and more representative names were applied.

At the heart of it, at the base of it, that is what is being forwarded, nothing less, nothing more. And that's as it should be. Cautions, such as the article you link to, are warranted as well, but those cautions don't negate what is occurring in the real world. Another link to consider.
7.12.2007 10:20pm
Michael B (mail):
In the foreshortened list provided directly above I should have added jihadist entities who are working to eliminate Israel, from Sunni Hamas and Shi'ia Hizbollah to all manner of antecedents, supergroups and subgroups (e.g., the PLO, the PA, Fatah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade). Israel is part and parcel of the general global jihadist/salafist war, fundamentally an ideological war. Israel is sui generis to a degree, it is in its own particular crucible, but only to a degree; it is both symbolic of and intensely representative of the wider set of Islamicist based conflicts.

The question Jacoby and others are posing is to what degree or in what sense, if any, can they more broadly be considered Islamic (Muslim) based. It's important such be posed as a question rather than an answer, but it's a perfectly relevant and meaningful question, regardless as to whether or not it may ultimately need to be rejected.
7.13.2007 3:17pm