Though it is used to describe moderate political movements, more recently it has taken on a whole different meaning.
Tony Blair recently suggested that extremism remains a first-order security threat to the west. While he is not wrong, his approach, logic and lexicon regarding the matter continue to be troubling. But it is not only Blair who profusely pursues these terms. The media, government and public also accept such sermonized behaviours.
The term I am referring to is ‘Islamism’ and its derivative ‘Islamist’. Use of the word is not only divisive but regressive, denoting a lack of understanding of the circumstances it broods, and a willingness to stoke the flames of centuries-old propaganda invoked as far back as the so-called ‘crusades’. The psychology of similarity works through not only shapes, faces and objects but also vocabulary. Through a fusion of the terms ‘terrorist/ism’ and Islam, a loose idea is soldered and related between the two words, even though the definition of each is far from close.
Use of such terms forms connotations between the religion of Islam (which translates as ‘submission/surrender’ – to God, in duty and belief), which not only skews understanding of the religion but loads perceptions in the public mind of conflict, insurgency and terrorism as synonymous with the faith. Far from the truth of the matter.
Right-wing publications such as The Spectator, Sky News and BBC are not exclusively culpable to the act of writing and repeating the word. The left, including publications like the Guardian, Novara media and the Canary also regularly utilise it without question. Without pause for thought as to why it is regularly employed, the demeanour of accelerating its use only furthers an increase of Islamophobic attacks and remarks without consequence. Its endemic presence, though not used as a generic of public vocabulary, still festers acceptability of it in the practice of journalism and governance.
So what is the way forward? Rejecting its use is of utmost concern if we’re to distinguish between the narratives of ultra-conservative values and their opinions of Islam. It will not only separate the notion of synonymy between the religion and its opposite of violence but begin eradication of unconscious bias and hearsay regarding practices that are broadly associated with culture as opposed to religious practice.
Removing it from the English lexis will insist upon a new definition of insurgency and politically motivated acts of violence. Not only will it demonstrate the differences between faith and terrorism, but also subdue developing prejudices.