April 02, 2007

Political Correctness, Linguistic Incorrectness

The Telegraph reports that the European Union "has drawn up guidelines advising government spokesmen to refrain from linking Islam and terrorism in their statements." The EU suggests that in place of "Islamic terrorism" one should say "terrorists who abusively invoke Islam".

You probably thought that this was an April Fool's post, but it isn't. This is a real story. The EU really thinks that there is no such thing as Islamic terrorism. This is, of course, a completely untenable position. Dozens of terrorists have explicitly said that they are Muslims and that their motivation was Islam. Moreover, there is clearly widespread support among Muslims for terrorism.

To take but one example, here are the results of a 2006 poll of Muslims as to whether they agreed that suicide bombings against civilians are sometimes or often justified:

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A poll of Palestinian Arabs found that 73% supported suicide attacks against American interests, a finding confirmed by the widely televised celebration of 9/11 in the West Bank and Lebanon. The EU may like to think that those who espouse terrorism are not true Muslims. but even if that is true, the fact remains that a substantial percentage of Muslims do not adhere to this view. Can you imagine the EU deciding that Roman Catholics and evangelicals who oppose abortion are not true Christians and insisting that one say "oppressors of women who abusively invoke Christianity" rather than "Christian anti-abortionists"?

The same figures, of course, show that most Muslims in the countries surveyed do not support terrorism, but to claim that there is no such thing as Islamic terrorism is ridiculous. The EU's ostrich-like approach is stupid and dangerous for the way it ignores the very real fact of Islamic terrorism, but it is also linguistically ignorant since the phrase "Islamic terrorism" carries no implication that all Muslims support terrorism or that Islam is particularly associated with terrorism. By the same token, "Christian opposition to gay marriage" does not imply that all Christians are opposed to gay marriage or that Christians are particularly associated with opposition to gay marriage. If one must be politically correct, one should start from a correct understanding of the language at issue.

Posted by Bill Poser at April 2, 2007 01:17 AM