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-Should We Identify Terrorists by Their Religion?

by Dr. D ~ July 13th, 2010

Cults and new religious movements in literatur...
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This week in the Washington Post series “On Faith” the major question posed is: What to call terrorists?

Here’s the intro posted by Elizabeth Tenety:

“In its 2010 National Security Strategy, the Obama administration sought to sever the relationship between Islam and terrorism, rejecting the use of terms like ‘Islamic terrorist’ and ‘jihad’ to describe acts of terror.

The linguistic change was a policy shift from the Bush administration and part of Obama’s overall strategy to reinvent America’s relationship with the Muslim world.

But the policy change has its critics. On Monday, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy published a report rebuking the Obama administration’s approach, suggesting that the new strategy dangerously ignores the religious motivations of terrorists.

What should we call terrorists, some of whom claim to be motivated by their religion? Can one be an Islamic terrorist? What about a Christian terrorist? Does what we call terrorists matter?”

Response: Most of the WP ‘On Faith’ responders supported the Obama Administration’s approach to drop any reference to the religion of the terrorists. I must say that I am somewhat divided on the issue but I believe it is important to expose the truth rather than hide it when it comes to religious motivations.

On one hand referring to the terrorists that happen to be Muslim as ‘Islamic’ or as ‘Muslim radicals’ can breed a certain amount of negative feelings for the whole religion. A religion with over a Billion members many of whom do not support terrorist causes.

Also there are a variety of factors many times that go into the makeup of different so-called ‘terrorist’ groups. Some started out as political insurgents against the current rulers of their own nation who were also Muslims. The motivation being more political and economic than anything.

Then there are groups which want to impose a more radical form of Islam on their nation and the world. I believe that fanatics like these who are motivated by a  particular understanding of Islam and are encouraged, supported, and advised by major Islamic religious leaders are a different case entirely.

Radical groups like these probably should be religiously identified because their Islamic faith does form a major basis for their identity and reason to exist and also provides the ideology for their actions.

Some of the writers responding to the WP series maintain that it is inappropriate to refer to the religion saying that Christians and Jews have been involved in terrorism in the past without ‘religious’ designation. Northern Ireland is one of the favorite examples given.

For years there was a major on-going battle in Northern Ireland between the ‘Nationalists’, who were Roman Catholic, and wanted to join with the Republic of Ireland and the ‘Unionists’, who were predominately protestant, who wanted to remain part of Great Britain. There were paramilitary ‘terrorist’ groups on both sides and thousands of folks were killed over the years.

So the Nationalists could have been called ‘Catholic Christian Terrorists’ while the Unionists could have been referred to as ‘Protestant Christian Terrorists’ but weren’t so we should not identify terrorists who are Muslims as Muslim Terrorists?

Actually a difference lies in the fact that religion was a side issue at best in Northern Ireland and part of a cultural-ethnic-political package. Religion was not the major motivation or ideological foundation of either side. Also major Catholic and Protestant clergy and religious leaders condemned the violence on both sides.

So this is the dividing line for me. The religion or the religious cult of a radical or terrorist group should be identified if it supplies the motivation, the ideological foundation,  and is openly encouraged and supported by major religious leaders. It serves no purpose and actually puts us in greater danger in the long run if the true character of our enemies is whitewashed and ignored.

Fact is, there are millions of radical Muslims around the world who support a world-wide imposition of Islam and sharia law. It is dangerous to ignore that reality. There are also hundreds of millions of Muslims who just want to get along with everyone else and should not be blamed for the actions of their more radical brethren.

If some kind of radical Christian cult or group comes along and uses ‘terrorist’ tactics they also should be exposed and named for who they really are, same goes for any Jewish, Hindu, or whatever.      *Top of the Blog

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