Noah Rothman: Where is comparing the violent white supremacy that inspired the New Zealand murderer to radical Islam valuable, and where is it not?

Thoughtful and nuanced distinctions by Rothman:

The racist terrorist who took the lives of at least 49 Muslims in the attack on two New Zealand mosques last week wanted to start “a civil war that will eventually balkanize the US along political, cultural and, most importantly, racial lines.” The attacker wrote those words in a deranged white-nationalist manifesto, and he will surely be delighted by the exposure his ramblings are receiving.

For days, the press has pored over this despicable document. Experts have analyzed it, and influential figures have been questioned about it. Though it risks publicizing the semi-literate thoughts of a deluded racist with a messiah complex, some of this was done for good reasons. Most of it, however, was an effort to affix blame to people and institutions closer to us than the monster who executed them—in particular, one Donald Trump, whom the terrorist named as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” but a terrible executor of white nationalist policy. White House advisor Kellyanne Conway recommended that “people should read” the manifesto “in its entirety” because, in her view, it exonerates the president. This is, to put it mildly, bad advice. An artificial exegesis of a blinkered mass murderer’s incoherent meanderings will not clarify the nature of the threat he and his ideological allies pose. But nor should observers ignore the ideology that compelled this attacker to massacre Muslims in their houses of worship. To do so would contribute to the appearance, perhaps even the reality, that there is a double standard for combating terrorism.

Source: Where is comparing the violent white supremacy that inspired the New Zealand murderer to radical Islam valuable, and where is it not?

I worked in the CIA under Bush. Obama is right to not say “radical Islam.” – Vox

Reprinted in its entirety:

The recent verbal attacks by the Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump and his supporters on President Barack Obama for avoiding the phrase “radical Islam” in his public pronouncements are simplistic, racially inflammatory — and flatly misinformed.

Settling upon accurate and strategically nuanced terms to describe the post-9/11 enemy is not the product of “political correctness” (contra Trump) or a failure to understand the enemy (contra a much-discussed Atlantic cover story). Nor are objections to using overly broad terms like “Islamic radicalism” limited to Democrats. The Bush administration understood the power of words, too. It concluded that distinctions that may seem small to Christian-American ears make a big difference to the mainstream Muslims we need on our side.

When I [Emile Nakhleh] directed the Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program at the CIA in the early 2000s, I frequently interacted with senior Bush administration policymakers about how to engage Muslim communities and, when doing so, which words and phrases to use to best describe the radical ideology preached by al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Always, the aim was to distinguish between radicals and extremists and the vast majority of mainstream Muslims, and to make sure the latter understood that we were not lumping them in with the former.

Like the Obama administration, the Bush administration correctly judged that the term “radical Islam” was divisive and adversarial, and would alienate the very people we wanted to communicate with.

Trump and those who echo his views must realize there is no such thing as one Islamic world or one Islamic ideology — or even one form of radicalism in the Muslim world. Many diverse ideological narratives characterize Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority countries and the 1.6 billion Muslims across the globe. To paint them all with the same broad brush of radicalism and extremism is absurd, dangerous, and politically self-serving.

Trump and those who share his views on this question may truly believe, as they insist when pressed, that “Islamic radicalism” describes only a subset of Muslims. But to Muslims, or for anyone familiar with the many strands of Islam, the phrase connotes a direct link between the mainstream of the Muslim faith and the violent acts of a few. What’s more, Trump appears to be recklessly pandering to the uninformed part of the American electorate that does believe in such a connection between the mainstream and the fringe.

Like the Obama administration, the Bush administration knew words matter

The project of choosing words carefully must begin with knowledge. Al-Qaeda, and more recently ISIS, have mostly drawn on the radical Sunni Wahhabi-Salafi ideology, which primarily emanates from Saudi Arabia. How to describe that narrow ideology to a broader audience was the focus of many conversations and briefings I attended after 9/11.

Many in the West, including some senior policymakers, have had only a scant knowledge of this type of ideology, which has wreaked deadly violence against Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I recall a conversation I had with a senior policymaker in which he asked me to explain “Wahhabism.” Since he had very limited time, I told him, “Wahhabists are akin to Southern Baptists.” That is: They read the holy text literally and are intolerant of other religious views. Wahhabists, like some Baptists, also abhor reasoning or “ijtihad” that would encourage them to question their religious brand. (Further complicating matters, Saudi Arabian officials, who generally embrace Wahhabi Salafism, describe those who use this ideology to justify their attacks on Saudi Arabia and other Muslim states as “deviants” from the faith.)

The roots of this radicalism go back to the Hanbali School of Jurisprudence, one of the four Schools in Sunni Islam, dating to the ninth century. Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, an 18th century Saudi theologian, adopted the teachings of the Hanbali School as the authentic teachings of Islam. This Saudi strain of Islam has been further radicalized by Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other Sunni terrorist groups. The other three, generally more liberal, schools are the Shafi’i, the Maliki, and the Hanafi — also named after their founders in the eighth and ninth centuries. Adherents of these more tolerant schools live across the wider Muslim world, from Morocco to Indonesia, from Turkey to South Asia.

Any terminology that the commander in chief of the United States settles on ought to reflect that we are speaking of Sunni-based radicalism — a strain that takes a particularly intolerant, exclusive, narrow-minded view of Islam and its relations with other Muslims and the non-Muslim world.

But there are at least two reasons why speaking of Wahhabism, while accurate, won’t fly in most public pronouncements: The word means little to the US domestic audience, and it could alienate Saudi Arabia, a complicated partner (to say the least) in anti-terror efforts. This is the one area in which the charge of “political correctness” carries some weight (although “political realism” may be a more reasonable way of describing the phenomenon).

Beyond ruling out “radical Islam” as overly broad, policymakers and advisors under both the Bush and Obama administrations have been careful not to accept the characterizations that violent extremists give to themselves, which inflate their role within their faith. That is why we don’t call them “jihadists” or, more obviously, “martyrs.”

The decision to avoid “radical Islam” is a strategic one

In short, both the Bush and Obama administration officials have refrained from using “Islamic radicalism” and its variants not because of “political correctness” but because of their nuanced knowledge of the diversity of Islamic ideologies. The term doesn’t enhance anyone’s knowledge of the perpetrators of terrorism or of the societies that spawn them, and it might hurt us in the global war of ideas. Policymakers refer to members of al-Qaeda and ISIS as “hijackers” of their faith in order to signal their support for mainstream Islamic leaders in an alliance against minor radical offshoots, not because they are unaware that some members of al-Qaeda and ISIS are theologically “sophisticated” (or “very Islamic,” as the Atlantic provocatively put it).

As our interest in Saudi Arabia’s oil wanes, some expect future administrations to take a tougher approach toward Saudi Arabia on the question of radical religious ideology. We may yet begin to hear talk of Wahhabi Salafism from a future White House.

But more likely, the next administration — I expect it will be the Clinton administration — will continue the policy the Bush administration began of referring to terrorists by the names of their organizations: Hezbollah, Ahl al-Bayt, the (Iranian) Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Quds Force, ISIS, and so on.

Using such terms avoids demonizing majorities of Sunni Muslims who just want to follow their faith, devoid of politics or activism. Simple terms like “terrorists,” “killers,” and “criminals” are also quite effective.

Source: I worked in the CIA under Bush. Obama is right to not say “radical Islam.” – Vox

The Right’s attitude to radical Islam is as bad as the Left’s » Spectator Blogs

A few pieces from the UK on Islam, starting with an opinion piece in The Spectator by Nick Cohen, noting how many on the right are weakening the voice of Muslim moderates:

Consider the title [Silent Conquest]. Muslims and by extension ex-Muslims are not a part of the West. They are outsiders, ‘silent conquerors’, who have sneaked in and torn up our rights. Nowhere can the filmmakers acknowledge that many Muslims, who have come to the West or indeed been born in the West, hope to enjoy the same rights as everyone else. More seriously, they display an ignorance of totalitarian movements, which would embarrass a first-year history student. They ought to know that, just as the first victims of communism were the Russian working class, which the Bolsheviks regimented and all but destroyed, and the first victims of Nazism were Hitler’s German opponents, so the first victims of radical Islam are the Muslims it claims to ‘own’. If they were to acknowledge that elementary truth, however, they would have to abandon their gratifyingly horrific story of a white West under attacks from dark barbarians, and that they will never do.

The right, or at least the most vocal part of it, are as willing as the most vocal elements on the liberal-left to ignore liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims. Like the left it is leaving them to fight unequal battles without help from mainstream society. As I said earlier, their behaviour is one of most glaring and depressing treacheries of our age.

The Right’s attitude to radical Islam is as bad as the Left’s » Spectator Blogs.

And UK Faith Minister Baroness Warsi being quoted in a Pakistani site, reiterating her standard message on Islam, and arguing strongly against the xenophobic views of UK Independence Party:

 “To be an adherent, one must also be a historian. This is a point that the late Benazir Bhutto, the first female Prime Minister of a Muslim country, once put particularly well when speaking of teachings in the Quran. She said: “In an age when no country, no system, no community gave women any rights, in a society where the birth of a baby girl was regarded as a curse, where women were considered chattel, Islam treated women as individuals.” …

“Deep, entrenched anti-Muslim bigotry goes against everything this great nation stands for,” she said. “I am concerned that the deeper Islamophobia seeps into our culture, the easier becomes the task of extremists recruiting.”

Sayeeda Warsi defends Islam in British parliament –