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Scum, thy name is terrorist

By
May 9, 2008

Recently the Department of Homeland Security came out with a report on the proper verbal etiquette federal agencies should use in talking about the murderous scum who are trying to kill us all. The report found its way to the Associated Press and a good thing, too, because the rest of us need to know this stuff.

The report addresses the delicate question of separating, in our sometimes-careless use of vocabulary, a great world religion, Islam, from the antics of a relatively small band of lunatic adherents. The report said U.S. officials may be “unintentionally portraying terrorists, who lack moral and religious legitimacy, as brave fighters, legitimate soldiers or spokesmen for ordinary Muslims.”

Surprisingly, considering our often-counterproductive efforts to improve U.S. standing in the Muslim world, the report makes a lot of sense. And DHS arrived at this happy pass by the happy, and, one would think, obvious, expedient of asking American Muslims how to not inadvertently give offense to tens of millions while denouncing a relative handful.

Al-Qaeda should not be described as a movement because it implies legitimacy and broad support to terrorists whose treatment of its co-religionists in Iraq’s Anbar Province was so loathsome that the Sunni tribes violently turned on them.

Don’t use the term “jihad,” struggle, or “jihadist” because these have broader religious meanings. Broader indeed. The index of The Oxford History of Islam devotes 23 lines of citations to jihad. “Mujahedeen” means holy warrior, far too honorable a term for a mope who straps on a suicide vest or, worse, persuades someone else to do so.

The report dismisses as too broad a brush and thus indiscriminately offensive the term “Islamo-fascism,” a formulation so clunky that only the Neocons that coined it could love it.

And the report cautions, too, about using Islamic theological terms — salafi, sufi, ummah — unless you’re confident of their meaning and implications. The Oxford History is 749 pages if you want to begin boning up. “Murderous scum,” however, is both descriptive and nondenominational. You’re welcome to it.

2 Responses to Scum, thy name is terrorist

  1. bryan mcclellan

    May 9, 2008 at 7:23 am

    How about bushistas and cheneites if specific insults are the order of the day ? Their combined cowardliness is certainly legendary !

  2. UhhhDude

    May 9, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    In addition, when referring to certain media pundits, DHS employees must refrain from using more familiar terms, such as “blowhard,” “idiot,” “a-hole,” and any epithet referring to male genitalia. As these pundits tend to be both extremely sensitive and highly ego-driven, DHS employees must strive to prevent a potentially destructive breakout of diarrhea-mouth disease.

    On the other hand, the term “talking head” is acceptable, since it has associations with a popular ’80s musical act. (No one, to the best of my knowledge, has asked David Byrne for his opinion.)