The stretch of semantics: “We are not terrorists.” And, conservatives in support of gay marriage – who knew?

One of my favorite pages in Time Magazine is the “Verbatim” page, where some of the week’s most outrageous quotes are featured. In the Jan. 18 issue, Ramy Zamzam is quoted as saying, “We are not terrorists. We are jihadists and jihad is not terrorism.”

Right, and I’m the Pope. C’mon, enough with the semantics. You try to kill people because you think the world is attacking Islam, because you want to spread Muslim territories (although not necessarily Islamic faith), because you’ve misunderstood (or, some argue, understood all too well and thus taken ancient texts too literally) the Qu’ran’s call for jihad. But that killing of folks for being different, that qualifies as terrorism, buddy, no matter what you want to call it.

While the French often make me crazy, the fact that they keep their language so tight, allowing few, if any, synonyms for words, assures that people are precise in their use of words. It’s hard to misunderstand them because when they say cup, they mean cup. With Zamzam and his allies, we’ve got a problem of definition. Afterall, there are definitions of jihad here, here and here, and not all of them agree as to how this “holy war” should be carried out, if at all. But the fact remains that when it is carried out, it is an offensive (as opposed to defensive) act and it shoots to kill anyone who disagrees with it.

Likewise the word “terrorism,” defined here, here and here. You’ll notice the commonality in the definitions is the “use of terror” (fear) to control large swaths of folks. With that definition, one could argue that the U.S. acts like a terrorist when it foments fear among the general public to get us to give up some of our liberties, but I think most would agree that that kind of fear-making is not on the same level as a bomb-strapped crazyman (or woman) walking into a cafe and pressing a switch to blow up everyone within 25 feet.

So, Mr. Zamzam, say what you will, but you are a terrorist. It may make you feel better calling yourself a jihadist, but the end result is the same: You are a cold-blooded (wannabe) murderer. You can coat it in semantics, fiddling with the definitions for your acts, justifying your murderous plans by saying Allah requires it of you (doubtful), that only your one type of Muslim is truly Muslim and thus protected from attack (ridiculous) and/or that jihad isn’t terror because you’re just trying to protect Islam from attack by McDonald’s and P. Diddy (nothing more threatening than a BigMac and a rapper with questionable grammar).

But, really, don’t you think you could sleep better at night if you’d at least get a grip and accept that your form of jihad is terrorism? Go for it; be a man. Oh, I forgot, you can’t be a man – you’re a jihadist.

**** And from the other side of the news magazine aisle, and courtesy of a Face Book post from a former Tucson Citizen employee, comes this Newsweek essay by lawyer Ted Olson (who defines himself as “a politically active, lifelong Republican, a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations…”) in support of gay marriage. He has decided to help in the legal fight to overturn California’s Proposition 8, which overturned California’s constitutional right ot gay marriage. A snip from the essay:

Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership. We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one’s own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society.

I’ve often argued that the reason we should accept gay marriage is because it would normalize what is already happening and encourage stability in gay relationships. I keep thinking of how I would feel if one of my children were gay. I would want him/her to settle down, just like I want my straight kids to. I want them to find that one person with whom to share life and get on with the lawn-mowing and taking out the trash and paying taxes and just, overall, move out of the college mind set of anyone, anytime, anywhere. So, congrats to a die hard conservative like Olson for sticking his neck out with this essay.

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11 comments

  1. I would imagine that the Crusaders were defined as terrorists by the resident Muslims of the time.  Imagine, trying to spread your religion through force of arms.

  2. You are correct in that all the Crusades (both Christian and then Muslim) were terrorist acts if one defines terrorism as taking over land by force of arms and then, in some or all cases, imposing religion.
    That said, we’re long past the Crusades, and most people would agree that convincing young men and women to strap themselves with explosives and blow up innocent people is terrorism of a different sort. And besides, two wrongs don’t make a right: i.e., yes, in the long ago past Crusaders and others did heinous things. But that doesn’t justify what is happening now. That would be like me coming to your house with a shotgun and say that your great, great, great, great grandfather pissed off my great, great, great, great grandfather and I’m so stupid I haven’t learned anything in the ensuing centuries and ergo, I’m blowing you up.
    I went to Israel 10 years ago. I interviewed Christians, Muslims and Jews. I said, at one point, to a Jewish leader and a Muslim leader something to the effect of, “C’mon, can’t you just split the land and move forward and forgive each other and work for the future of peace?” And these men (of course) said back to me, each in their own way, that I was a naiive American (“You Americans and your 200 year old country – what do you know of anything?”) and, additionally, that as a Christian I didn’t fully understand the term “justice.”
    They said that because the Christian theology is built on the foundation of fallen, forgiven and redeemed I would never understand that forgiveness can NEVER come before true justice. And true justice to them was each defined as “give me back my land.” I kid you not. The Arabs could point to land and say, “This has been in my family 500 years” and the Jews could do the same … “King David is my ancestor and he walked this land and ….”
    It was crazy, I tell you. They would rather be right than happy. They would rather fight than be peaceful if being peaceful means setting aside their pride and “ownership” and, God forbid, sharing.
    Anyway, if the best you can give me is the Crusades, it ain’t good enough. We, as humanity, have moved past that. Except for a small, determined, angry group of young Muslim extremists who want to drag the world back a few centuries. I’d condemn them if they were Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu. Just happens to be they are Muslim. Or so they say.

  3. The Crusades may be old news to you, but the impression I get from the news I read is that it is fresh on the minds of Muslims.  Anyway, I am certainly not trying to justify terrorism, defined as “violence directed against civilians in an effort to advance a political or religious cause”.  I am trying to illustrate how different folks will have different points of view.  Just because you dismiss the crusades as no longer significant or relevant doesn’t mean that others feel the same way.  I will make an accusation that trying to weigh the crimes of Islam against the crimes of Christianity is really splitting a very fine hair.  I also think trying to claim that dropping Napalm on civilians is somehow different than strapping on a bomb and killing people is also trying to split a very fine hair.   
    Whether burned alive or blown to pieces, you’re still dead.

    I do want to make two other related points: one is that many, including, but not limited to: Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, El Salvador and Vietnam, consider the US to be the world’s primary exporter of terror as defined above.  Certainly, when the empire supports genocide against the Palestinian people and kills innocent Afghanis, I think the people of the region are justified in calling it an act of terrorism.  Two, that the propaganda-makers in the US have decided to hijack the term terrorist and redefine it as any force that opposes the interests of the empire.  The term has become almost useless as anything but propaganda; propaganda that keeps the people scared and compliant.  

    Any of the world’s monotheistic religions can rightfully be accused of wanting to drag the world back a few centuries.  It was in the 17th Century that Descartes began a revolution to replace religious dogma with reason as the source of our knowledge about ourselves and the universe.  Time to get on board. 

    Christian or Muslim; American theocracy or Iranian theocracy, I think you’re all on a dead-end course to killing one another and then arguing about who started it and who is justified in their behavior. 

    • Lefty, don’t you realize how lucky you are? A few centuries back, you could have been tortured then killed as a heretic and blasphemer. Nowadays, this only happens in the Muslim countries…

      • I am lucky for so many reasons, Rad.  And I proudly wear the label, “Heretic and Blasphemer”, although I think the real heretics and blasphemers are the other guys. 

        I surely have no plans for any vacations in Saudi Arabia anytime soon.  I’d hate to be subject to any of that “enhanced interrogation”.  Now that Dick Cheney is at loose ends, maybe there’s a job waiting for him in the Middle East as an “enhanced interrogator”.

      • You see, Renee, your friend Ramy’s manipulation of language is not really different than Dick Cheney’s.  According to Big Dick, “If we do it, it’s not torture”  According to Ramy, “If we do it, it’s not terrorism”.  Perhaps we should just let the victims of both decide what they want to call it; it might get us closer to the truth.

    • leftfield: I COMPLETELY agree that what the U.S. has done in the past is terrorism (napalm). I also agree that torture is torture and the U.s. plays w/ words. But none of that is relevant to the post. The point is radical Muslims have decided it is their personal duty to kill anyone who doesn’t believe like them. That is like you or me saying, hey, I’m going to go kill everyone who is conservative.
      True, we got into Iraq for all the wrong reasons — but we originally attacked Afghanistan b/c of 9/11. Probably wasn’t the best idea, since we didn’t get bin laden and, besides, this is a monster of irrationality and you can’t kill it. You can only try to, IMHO, lessen its damage. Young (18 to late 30s) muslim men are being brainwashed and recruited to kill themselves and others in the name of God and it is wrong, IMHO. And calling it jihad to make it “righteous” doesn’t make it right.
      Yes, they remember the Crusades (not their part, of course), but that’s my point: MOVE ON. Shouldn’t we have evolved past that ridiculous, horrific IRRATIONAL time? That’s what I see with these radical Islamists – they literally want to live a few hundred centuries back and want everyone else there with them. That makes no sense. I’m sure you read about the protesters killing some people two days ago in “retaliation” for desecrating the quran. Guess what? I get coffee at a place that has a Bible descecrated and and “blasphemy” written all over the cover and do i pull out a gun or throw rocks? No. Because we are supposed to be grownups and we are supposed to use our words, not our fists. I just drink my coffee and ignore the offense.
      Yes, the U.S. has done some horrible things in times of war and, right now, in this “war on terror” . If it were me, I’d treat the jihadists like any attention-demanding child: I’d do what they don’t expect. I’d take all the money we spend on war, build a hundred new schools in Iraq and Afghanistan (which the crazies would try to destroy and/or they’d throw acid on girls wanting to go because they are so much more evolved than we over in the U.S.) and then I’d get out, leaving them to kill each other or evolve to a more rational people.
      We could then just track them on the internet b/c they post everything they do and we can implement serious profiling and searching at airports and sea ports and keep up intelligence gathering to try to reduce an attack on our shores by crazy guys in turbans. But I’d bring our boys/girls home (to a horrible economy and no jobs – anyone think THAT might have some reason we are still sending troops??) and tell the radical Muslims to take a flying leap.
      Afterall, one of the stated goals of the terrorists/jihadists has been to kill the evil empire from w/in by draining us dry of our money through war (I got that straight from the mouth of an imam who disagrees with suicide bombers but has spoken with some who want to be suicide bombers) — and we are being stupid in giving them what they want. We need to be smart and self-preserve… esp. if we are going to help Haiti, which, evil empire that we are, we will. In spades.
       

  4. Renee, I agree with your position on gay marriage stated above as I also see it as committed gays wanting the same treatment as straight couples, even having children via adoption/insemination if they choose to.  A gay teenager growing up in America will find out that our society won’t let him/her marry unless they happen to be living in the few states that now allow gay marriage.  It is an equal protection issue and also a civil rights one.

  5. You can’t use the word “Terrorist” and “Semantics” in the same sentence anymore – at least not in a country which has declared “War on Terror”.
    We have redefined “terrorist” to mean anyone that we don’t like, so you can expect those we don’t like to do the same.
    Your linked-to definitions are quite correct – targeting civilian populations with violence in order to spread fear in the population should be the definition of terrorism.
    Yet you will routinely see “jihadists” and “insurgents” described as “terrorists” in our media and by our government.
    I’m all in favor of a stricter use of “terrorism”, but such improvements need to start at home, as usual.
    As for Olson – he is one of the dwindling “conservatives” that are not motivated by rampaging christianity. Opposition to equality for gays originates not in ‘economic conservatives”, but from the churches – even those that don’t consider themselves “conservative” on economic issues.
     
     

  6. Renee, I may be guilty of assuming here.  I did assume that one of your points was to contrast the behavior of the US vs that of the Jihadists and that of Christians vs Muslims.  I apologize. 

    If you’re saying that killing anyone who is not Muslim is wrong or strapping on a bomb and killing innocent people is wrong, I’m with you all the way.

    You printed the word irrational in all caps at least once in your reply.  I think this may serve to point out one of the fundamental differences in our respective points of view as well as one similarity.  Yes, the behavior of the Jihadists does seem irrational to me also.  We agree there.  One of the problems at the crux of this whole issue, IMO, is that matters of faith are necessarily not subject to reason.  To believe in something without any rational reason to believe in it is to have faith.  Reason tells us that bushes don’t just burst into flames and start talking; faith tells us otherwise.  So, I don’t believe we can expect the Jihadists to behave “rationally”.  Now, and this is where I believe we will differ: at the center of this problem of “terrorism”, I point the dirty finger at religion in general, not just at Islam.  Like alcohol, religion makes people say and do stupid things; things that seem ultimately irrational to people like myself.  Right now, it’s the Muslims, one hundred or one thousand years from now, it will be the Christians again. 

    I do like your idea for resolving the situation.  After all, it can’t work any less well than what we’re doing now and it just might work a whole lot better. 

    • Yeah, assumptions get people in trouble, but we all tend to do it sometimes. Religion CAN make people say and do stupid things. It also helps them do many good and wonderful things (note the Red Cross). I would say the bastardization (can I say that on this website?) of religion (and people who spread fear instead of love) is what causes people to do crazy things. But that’s just my opinion.

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