[First published January 3, 2005] Islamicists? Extremists? Militants. Rebels? No, It’s Terrorists.
There is an obvious reluctance in the democratic media to call terrorists terrorists. It’s a matter of being even handed, you know. So, with regard to the Beslan, Russia tragedy in which the terrorist takeover of a school led to the death of about 400 adults and children, the terrorists were named anything but. Daniel Pipes has pointed out in his article “They’re Terrorists – Not Activists” the different ways the media described the terrorists:
• Assailants – HYPERLINK “http://www.npr.org/features/feature.php?wfId=3883674″National Public Radio.
• Attackers – the HYPERLINK “http://www.economist.com/agenda/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3168912″Economist.
• Bombers – the HYPERLINK “http://www.guardian.co.uk/russia/article/0,2763,1298075,00.html”Guardian.
• Captors – the HYPERLINK “http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002026224_schoolscene04.html”Associated Press.
• Commandos – HYPERLINK “http://actu.voila.fr/Article/article_une_040904113055.o5lxyimn.html”Agence France-Presse refers to the terrorists both as “membres du commando” and “commando.”
• Criminals – the HYPERLINK “http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-152-1244712,00.html”Times (London).
• Extremists – HYPERLINK “http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20040903-120954-4891r.htm”United Press International.
• Fighters – the HYPERLINK “http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58381-2004Sep3.html”Washington Post.
• Group – the HYPERLINK “http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,10682566%255E1702,00.html”Australian.
• Guerrillas: in a HYPERLINK “http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/editorial/28063.htm”New York Post editorial.
• Gunmen – HYPERLINK “http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsPackageArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=577169§ion=news”Reuters.
• Hostage-takers – the HYPERLINK “http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-russia5sep05,1,1666408.story?coll=la-home-headlines”Los Angeles Times.
• Insurgents – in a HYPERLINK “http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/02/international/europe/02russia.html”New York Times headline.
• Kidnappers – the HYPERLINK “http://www.guardian.co.uk/russia/article/0,2763,1297678,00.html”Observer (London).
• Militants – the HYPERLINK “http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-0409040131sep04,1,5590978.story”Chicago Tribune.
• Perpetrators – the HYPERLINK “http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/06/international/europe/06react.html”New York Times.
• Radicals – the HYPERLINK “http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3625744.stm”BBC.
• Rebels – in a HYPERLINK “http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/09/04/1094234077715.html?oneclick=true”Sydney Morning Herald headline.
• Separatists – the HYPERLINK “http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0907/p01s02-woeu.html”Christian Science Monitor.
• Activists – the HYPERLINK “http://www.pakistantimes.net/2004/09/04/top.htm”Pakistan Times.
However, the term “terrorist” is not the best label either. If we are concerned with a term that is descriptive, includes those carrying out that which we want to reference, and excludes those who ought not to be included, then we need another term than “terrorists” or “terrorism.” For the moment, let me use the term qwats for the actions we want to describe and those doing it. What are quates characteristics:
Qwats are mass murderers and in some cases genociders against Jews, and who violate all the codes and conventions covering warfare. But, across the world, there are many mass murderers and genociders, some ruling countries, and there are murderers in all civil societies. So, to replace the term quates with murderers is to make it too broad
Quates kill civilians and prisoners without merci. They carry out the equivalent of warfare, but without uniforms or insignia, from the mist of civilians, often using hospitals, schools, and mosques as weapon storehouses and firing sites, and thus fundamentally violating the most important parts of the Geneva Conventions. Quates are thus international criminals, but using that to describe quates would include international criminals of different kinds, such as Idi Amin and Pol Pot.
Quates are stateless, in that they are not the explicit agents of any state or government, although such might give them aid and comfort. They are all Moslems, but make up only a very small minority of Moslems. Islamofascist has been tried to describe these quates, but this means a believer or follower of a fascist version of Islam. Many Islamic teachers and clerics are fascists, but they are not murdering people or proposing that be done, as are quates.
The quates are fanatic about Islam, fundamentalists who want to impose it on the world, and willing to be suicide bombers to do so. But, here also fanaticism could be said of many Islamic teachers and clerics, but it does not mean they are suiciders or murderers.
Then, what are we left with? All the above labels for quates, and others that that have been suggested, such as Islamicist, militant Islamists, militants, and rebels, do not embody the murderous and utterly barbaric nature of the Islamic murderers at work in Iraq, Afghanistan, against Israel, and in the attacks on civilians in Indonesia, Spain, and the United States.
We simply do not have good terms for quates in English. So, I suggest sticking to “terrorist” and “terrorism.” They carry the idea of mass murder and barbaric attacks, and they are beginning to connote in the present world context, Islamic. terrorism and terrorists. In time, the terms will absorb the nature of that being described, just like “communism,” which used to be a benign terms, has come to connote it murderous practice in Cambodia, China, and the Soviet Union.
So, In Iraq today, terroristsattacks killed 33.
Weblog Link of Note
”Coming to Terms: Militant Islam or Radical Islam?” By Daniel Pipes
He writes on the evolution of his description of terrorism to his most recent adoption, “radical Islam.” Sorry Dan, I think that is more problematical than “terrorism” or “terrorist.”