Sunday, May 18, 2008


The term “politically correct,” is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary thus: “Of, relating to, or supporting broad social, political, and educational change, especially to redress historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.” Add to that litany of “historical injustices” the title of my New York Times best-seller: “American Heroes in the Fight Against Radical Islam.”

In recent weeks, the vocabulary police opened a new front in the war on terror by issuing a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” for terrorism terminology. In an effort to fight a “kinder, gentler” war on Islamic radicals, the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with unnamed Islamic interest groups, has issued a paper titled, “Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations from American Muslims.”

This policy document warns U.S. government officials against “using theological terms, particularly those in Arabic even if such usage is benign or overtly positive. Islamic law and terms come with a particular context, which may not always be apparent.” Homeland Security’s paper counsels: “It is one thing for a Muslim leader to use a particular term; an American official may simply not have the religious authority to be taken seriously, even when using terms appropriately.”

In other words, we infidels have no “street cred” in the Islamic world.

We are told we should no longer use words and phrases such as “jihadist,” “Islamic terrorist,” “Islamist,” and “holy warrior.” Using the word “Islamic,” the experts have advised us, may “concede the terrorists’ claim that they are legitimate adherents of Islam.”

At best, this advice is seriously flawed. At worst, it is an ominous recipe that invites defeat, for it begs us to ignore who has declared war against the West in general — and the United States in particular. The authors urge us to disregard the first axiom of war: If you don’t know your enemy — you will lose.

In an interview with Bernard Lewis, dean of Mideast scholars, for Fox News’ “War Stories,” he contrasted how we fought fascism during World War II with the current conflict. He said: “Then we knew who the enemy was. We knew who we were. Nowadays … we have great difficulty in defining the enemy. We have to be careful not to offend anybody. We don’t even seem to be able to define our own cause, let alone the enemy’s. This kind of uncertainty makes it very difficult to carry on any sort of struggle.”

Unfortunately, the DHS policy paper — drafted with the help of anonymous “influential Muslim Americans” — makes the current struggle more difficult, Moreover, it is riddled with outright falsehoods. The document states: “The civilized world is facing a global challenge, which transcends geography, culture and religion.” That statement defies reality. We didn’t label al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Jamiyah Islamiyah and Mahdi Army murderers — to name just a few of the groups I have seen in action — Muslim holy warriors; they did so. We didn’t call their savage suicidal bombing campaign an Islamic jihad — they did.

The Homeland Security document insists “Islam and secular democracy are fully compatible — in fact, they can make each other stronger. Senior officials should emphasize this positive fact.” That “positive fact” simply isn’t.

Save for Iraq and Afghanistan where U.S. troops have become the protectors of Muslim women and nascent representative political institutions, there is no Islamic majority country where “secular democracy” flourishes. We didn’t create these realities — Muslim leaders did.

Reality has little to do with this new wave of political correctness — and it goes well beyond this new DHS policy document. Muneer Fareed of the Islamic Society of North America told The Washington Times that he has contacted Sen. John McCain’s office to urge him to “rethink word usage that is more acceptable to the Muslim community.” Mr. Fareed is upset that Mr. McCain consistently refers to “radical Islamic extremism.”

In London, the British government’s Home Office has advised government officials that they should use words such as “violent extremism” instead of “terrorism.” When fanatics carry out horrific attacks on innocent civilians in the name of Islam, the perpetrators should be referred to as “criminals” instead of “terrorists.”

Not to be outdone in political correctness, the European Union has come up with guidelines on how to talk about terrorists who are literally dying to kill us. It warns that, “Unintended stigmatization resulting from an ill-considered choice of words may have serious negative psychological effects and thus contribute to the process of radicalization.” In other words, it’s all our fault.

If we succumb to this kind of mindless mumbo-jumbo and double-speak to describe the Islamic radicals who are trying to kill us, we’re courting uncertainty and defeat.

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, author of “American Heroes” and host of “War Stories” on the Fox News Channel. He is also the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance.

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