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Why “Islamic terrorism” is more insulting that we realize

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Body by FisherCross-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.

Juan Cole, U of Michigan’s brilliant Middle East scholar, wrote a valuable Salon article offering cross-cultural insight into the difference between Islamic and Muslim.

clipped from www.commondreams.org
Juan Cole“Islamic” has to do with the religion founded by the prophet Mohammed. We speak of Islamic ethics … or Islamic art, as things that derive from the religion. “Muslim,” on the contrary, describes the believer. It would be perfectly all right to talk about Muslim terrorists, but calling them Islamic terrorists or Islamic fascists implies that the religion of Islam is somehow essentially connected to those extremist movements.
Giuliani complained that during their debates, Democratic rivals “never mentioned the word ‘Islamic terrorist,’
But people are not “Islamic,” they are Muslim. And one most certainly does insult Muslims by tying their religion to movements such as terrorism or fascism. Muslims perceive a double standard in this regard: Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols would never be called “Christian terrorists” even though they were in close contact with the Christian Identity Movement.
Muslims point out that persons of Christian heritage invented fascism, not Muslims
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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. AhmadinejadThat’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?


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Written by Monte

February 2, 2008 at 2:03 pm

Khatami’s statement of June 21, translated by Naj

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DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 25JAN07 - captured during t...
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Naj writes: (please forgive typos and grammatical errors, in RUSH before running to work, feel free to edit and cross post)

In the name of God, the kind and the merciful,
People’s participation is one of the grand achievements of the Islamic Revolution, which must be guarded and expanded. This magnificent presence, from all sectors and all ages and all professions, has a clear message that the people are the rightful owners of the country and the revolution. This message must be heard today; their silent protest and civil manners during these protests is an evidence of their maturity, vigilance and responsibility and it also reflects this unequivocal fact that the people are entitled to basic and specific rights that any government is obliged to respect. Provocative and insulting propaganda against a people who have always acted independently, and blaming their rightful movement to foreigners is in itself a sign of implementing wrong politics that cause further alienation of the people from the government. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

June 21, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Not even the enemy of HIS enemies!

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Third Sunday of Easter • April 26, 2009

Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48

Spring 09 home 014I’ve been thinking a lot about why we come here.

We need a sense of that – a sense of what we’re here for. Just making a church bigger – that doesn’t do it for me. We’ve been down that road. It isn’t enough to satisfy my hunger.

Why do I come here?

I think I want one thing more than anything else: I want to bring love into my world. I want to bring it to my family. I want to bring it to you. I want to bring it to people on the street. I want to bring it to political decisions. I want to bring it to unloved people. I want to bring it to people on the internet. I want to bring it to the nations of the world.

I want love to change this world. I want it to smother tragedy. I want it to expose selfishness. I want it to change the way my family lives, my workplace operates, my government thinks.

What I want to do here is to re-capture that source of love – and share it in such a way that you do, too – so that love will make everything you touch as you walk through your week just a little different than it was before.

But my world doesn’t get that. It thinks love is a wimpy thing, not the way of heroes. So all week long I talk and visit and write to people who are convinced the Kingdom of God is not enough, and it cannot bring what the world needs. And sometimes their arguments wear me down.

And that’s why I come here. It’s because we’re doing something together. We’re believers that the love of God is stronger than anything that’s wrong in the world. We’re determined to bring it to the places we live and work and vote and write. You’re doing something. Read the rest of this entry »

Indonesia: Radical Muslims’ parties lose support

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Bravo, Indonesia!

The world’s largest Muslim nation rejects radicals at the polls:

clipped from www.nytimes.com

Indonesia’s Voters Retreat From Radical Islam

Session of the Indonesian People's Representat...
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[H]ere in the world’s most populous Muslim nation […] Islamic parties [are] suffering a steep drop in popular support. […]

In parliamentary elections this month, voters punished Islamic parties that focused narrowly on religious issues, and even the parties’ best efforts to appeal to the country’s mainstream failed to sway the public.[…]

The party had projected that it would double its share of seats in Parliament even as it stuck to its founding goal of bringing Shariah, or Islamic law, to Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, with 240 million people. […]

Altogether, the major Islamic parties suffered a drop in support from 38 percent in 2004 to less than 26 percent this year […]

[F]undamentalist measures seem to have alienated moderate Indonesians […]

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Ramadan greetings

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Ramadan wallpaper

To my friends who are Muslims:
May mercy, forgiveness, and salvation be yours in abundance this Ramadan!
I am a better person because of what you have given me. Your friendship is a treasure.


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Written by Monte

September 3, 2008 at 2:39 pm