Police may drop ‘Islamist’ term when describing...
The UK police are looking at dropping the terms “Islamist terrorism” and “jihadis” when describing attacks by those who claim Islam as their motive, because of negative connotations. A Muslim police organization says today's official terminology fuelled negative perceptions, stereotypes, discrimination, and Islamophobia.
Alternative suggestions move away from calling crimes Muslim-specific, and instead opt for “faith-claimed terrorism” and “terrorists abusing religious motivations”. “Adherents to Osama bin Laden’s ideology” has also been circulated.
This decision comes after an online conference featuring members of the National Association of Muslim Police and Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, head of counter-terrorism policing, discussed the possibility that the term fuelled detrimental stereotypes against Britain’s Muslim population. The 3,000-member organisation advocated for a “change in culture by moving away from using terms which have a direct link to Islam and Jihad. These… do not help community relations and public confidence,” it said.
The group suggested the Arabic word "irhabi" (terrorist) be used instead of "jihadi". It said the word was widely used in the Middle East to describe those who adopt extremist views. In Islam, the word “jihad” denotes the inner struggle of remaining faithful, and ascribing such a word to describe those who commit violence in the name of the religion is therefore widely inaccurate.
During the event it was pointed out that right-wing extremists such as Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in an attack in Norway in 2011, had often cited protecting Christianity as part of the motive for their actions, but were not described as “Christianist” or “crusaderist” by the police or the media.
Rizwan Mustafa, a former West Midlands police officer who now works as a lecturer at Huddersfield University, wrote in a briefing paper that Muslims in Counter-Terrorism were uncomfortable about Islamism and jihadi as “pejorative and depicting the religion of Islam (their belief) as violent and belligerent”. Mr Mustafa says that rather than attributing attacks to organisations like Islamic State or al-Qaeda, perpetrators could be identified by their group’s leaders, such as Bin Laden.
But critics say the move could make the public less trustful of the police. “People don't like to feel that they are being told only the partial truth.” Said David Toube, of counter-extremism think tank Quilliam. "There is a serious problem with Islamist terrorism.” The police told that changes to the phrases used by police were being considered but were not certain. Chief Superintendent Nik Adams, coordinator of the de-radicalisation unit, Prevent, said the meeting had been designed to look at the evidence. “We have no plans to change the terminology we use at present but welcomed the debate and contributions.” He said.
The debate comes as a new study on the UK government’s counter-terrorism Prevent strategy found that it reinforced negative stereotypes about Muslims and Islam. The study, published by SOAS University of London, in conjunction with universities of Durham, Coventry and Lancaster, said students who supported Prevent were nearly three times more likely to see Islam as intolerant to non-Muslims, compared to those who believed Prevent was damaging university life.
“Our research provides the first in-depth study of how perceptions of Islam impact Muslim university students. There is evidence of prejudice in the classroom and in everyday encounters on UK campuses, particularly affecting visibly Muslim students. Yet the research also demonstrates that universities could play a crucial role in addressing racism and Islamophobia by improving religious literacy about Islam in British society.” Said Dr Shuruq Naguib from Lancaster University.
The project included a national survey of 2,022 students across 132 UK universities. In addition, interviews and focus groups were conducted with 253 staff and students at six higher education institutions, including four universities and two Muslim colleges of Higher Education. "It appears that Prevent has become strongly associated with the presumed dangers of radical Islam and with a perception that Muslims are dogmatic, intolerant and prone to violence," Mathew Guest, one of the report's authors, wrote in an op-ed for Open Democracy. "Our research suggests that universities could do much more to tackle the roots of Islamophobia and ensure that they are not complicit in maintaining racism," Guest said.
Islamophobia, the hatred for and fear of Islam and Muslims, manifests itself in physical, political, cultural, linguistic and other forms. From the linguistic perspective, many words have been coined to perpetuate prejudices against Muslims and their religion. Expressions are freely used to associate Islam, which means “peace” in Arabic, with concepts and actions which the religion and practising Muslims do not approve of, much less condone. Expressions such as Islamic terrorism, Islamic fanaticism, Muslim extremists, Islamist and political Islam have been used pejoratively. To strike fear and misgivings in the minds of many Europeans, the British capital has even been mischievously called “Londonistan” by anti-Muslim elements. Many studies show that using these terms for terrorist attacks have negative effects on Muslim’s lives.