Why “Islamic terrorism” is more insulting that we realize
Cross-cultural communication is tough. I’m told that when GM first began selling cars in Europe, the then-omnipresent “Body by Fisher” seal in the door sill was mistranslated to read “Corpse by Fisher.” I doubt it helped GM get what it was after.
Get it? Islamic means from the religion. Muslim describes a person.
I’m not too bothered by calling Timothy McVeigh a “Christian terrorist,” given that Christian can describe either the faith or a person. But I would be troubled if McVeigh were labeled a “Biblical terrorist;” that would suggest that terrorism would derive from following Jesus. And I’d want to oppose that idea everywhere it arose.
So it may be, a bit, with Islamic and Muslim.
Now, the argument could be made that it’s a free country and people can say whatever they want. That’s true, but it isn’t the point. If we want to seriously communicate with people of languages or faiths other than our own, we have some homework to do. Or we’ll find ourselves saying things we didn’t intend. Our communication won’t work very well. We won’t get what we’re after (indeed, this is part of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s problem: he has not understood what his words mean in western culture; journalists and politicians have failed to work hard at accurately translating the intent behind his words, opting for the simpler route of calling him crazy. Corpse by Fisher).
What do we want, then, from interaction with others? Those of us who see a part of our faith as becoming peace-makers, what do we want from communication?
Can we afford the shallowness of understanding only our own views, or talking in only our own way? Will it get us what we’re after?
Tags: translation, language, Islamofascism, Islamicists, Muslim, speech, Ahmadinejad, Giulani, Juan+Cole, Terry+McVeigh, ethnocentrism, cross-cultural, Monte Asbury
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