Ministers soften their language
A shift has been taking place in UK government ministries as to the terminology used to describe the terrorist threat faced by Britain. The Foreign Office has advised ministers to abandon the use of terms such as ‘war against terror’, ‘Islamic terrorism’ and ‘Islamist terrorism’.
The idea is that these terms antagonise the British Muslim community and increase tensions with the wider Muslim world. Using military terminology is seen as counter-productive, contributing to the isolating of communities from each other.
According to proponents of this shift, such terms imply a conflict of religions and link Islam, the ‘religion of peace’, with terrorism and radicalism. They hold that the widespread use of such terms serves only to alienate and radicalise more Muslims who would otherwise be happy to integrate into a cohesive British society.
Terrorists, they believe, use the sense of crisis engendered by the discourse on a ‘clash of civilisations’ and a ‘war against Islamic terrorism’ to recruit supporters who feel that Islam is being attacked and that Muslims must defend themselves.
Abandoning such terms, according to the Foreign Office, will avoid empowering the terrorists’ narrative and weaken the trend to radicalisation.
However, Barnabas Fund points out that there are also dangers in the new approach. Radical terrorists may have their position strengthened by the rejection of the link between violence and their religion, while the growing number of Muslim reformers and liberals who are beginning to articulate their critique of the links between classical Islamic theology and violence may find themselves marginalised.