Earlier this week, The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) launched a campaign to persuade Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to drop the adjective “Islamic” when describing terrorists and extremists. Indeed, one of McCain’s favorite talking points is railing against “Islamic” extremists and terrorists. But the McCain campaign has refused to budge, saying that he will continue to refer to Islam when talking about terrorism.
Now, the AP has learned that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agrees with the ISNA. A recent DHS report has concluded that linking Islam to terrorism offends moderate Muslims and gives extremists “religious legitimacy,” adding any such language should be avoided:
Such words may actually boost support for radicals among Arab and Muslim audiences by giving them a veneer of religious credibility or by causing offense to moderates. [...]
U.S. officials may be “unintentionally portraying terrorists, who lack moral and religious legitimacy, as brave fighters, legitimate soldiers or spokesmen for ordinary Muslims,” says a Homeland Security report. [...]
“We should not concede the terrorists’ claim that they are legitimate adherents of Islam,” the report said.
The report also stressed that “lingo like ‘Islamo-fascism’ is out, too,” a term that conservatives — including President Bush — consistently use to rally the country around a militant response to terrorism and terrorists. For example:
– Rush Limbaugh: “Patriotism is rallying behind the country, regardless of party affiliation, to defeat Islamofascism.”
– David Horowitz: “The term ‘Islamo-fascism’ describes the agendas of the jihadists with perfect accuracy.”
– President Bush: Terrorists “try to spread their jihadist message – a message I call…Islamic radicalism, Islamic fascism.”
Muslim leaders in the U.S. have long argued that such language “offends the vast majority of moderate Muslims,” but the McCain campaign thinks it knows better. Senior adviser Steve Schmidt recently said “the reality is, the hateful ideology which underpins bin Ladenism is properly described as radical Islamic extremism. Senator McCain refers to it that way because that is what it is.”
Steve Benen notes that when McCain’s “buddy” Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) “talks about the same issue, he condemns Democrats for neglecting to use phrases like ‘Islamist extremism’ or ‘Islamist terrorism.’”