During a segment on a CNN special report that aired Monday night discussing Islamist extremism, one guest suggested that the White House’s refusal to use “Islamic” or “Islamist” as adjectives for terrorist groups like the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and others, is actually helpful in the war on terrorism because it “delegitimizes” the religious mantle the terrorists are attempting to use to justify their actions.
Journalist Ahmed Shihab-Eldin told hosts Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota that describing the enemy as “Islamist” could be deceptive, as “this is also a war on Islam,” and many Muslims have suffered at the hands of Islamist terrorist groups.
Quartz managing editor Bobby Ghosh, who also joined the panel on the debate, disagreed, noting that “jihadist” or “Islamist” were acceptable terms even if the terrorists themselves had wildly distorted their original definitions. “There is an acceptance that these people are claiming to fight in the name of God,” he argued, adding that, as long as a caveat exists that jihadists do not represent the entire Muslim faith, the words are acceptable.
Shihab-Eldin replied that describing the enemy as “Islamist” implies that their actions constitute a “legitimate form of Islam,” which is misleading, though allowing for Chris Cuomo’s reply that, by not describing the enemy as “Islamist,” the White House “feeds the phobia of Muslims in this country” because many Americans see no good reason not to describe the enemy as they describe themselves.
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