Islam / Use of religious terms
Religious terms referring to Muslims & Islam
Terminology referring to Islam is a special case:
But a follower of Islam is called a Muslim.
Islam, is derived from the Arabic
word "salam," which is often interpreted as meaning "peace."
However "submission" appears to be a more accurate translation.
A Muslim is a follower of Islam. "Muslim"
is an Arabic word that refers to a person who submits themselves to the will of
Having very different words for the name of the religion and the name of the
believer has generated problems. By linking terrorist acts committed by Muslims
to the religion of Islam instead of to the perpetrators themselves, the media,
government and others convey the belief that Islam is responsible for the
atrocities, not the individuals who actually committed the deeds. This has
produced a great deal of anger among many Muslims.
Good deeds and bad deeds are done by individual people, not by religions.
Religious can sometime provide the theological justification for discrimination
based on race, sex, religion,
sexual orientation, etc. But, oppression, murder, genocide, etc. are
actually committed by individual believers. It is those individuals who must
bear primary responsibility for the acts.
After Timothy McVeigh parked a rental truck loaded with explosives in front
of the Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, and perpetrated
the most deadly terrorist attack on American soil up until that time, he was
simply identified as a terrorist.
||Was a member of the Roman Catholic Church at the
time of the bombing. 1
||Is believed to have been an
Agnostic during his adult years. 2,3
||Appears to have been heavily influenced by the
militia movement "....which believes that ordinary Americans are under
imminent threat of attack, from nuclear war, communists or central
||Was apparently motivated by a desire to take revenge on the Federal
Government for the attack on the Branch Davidians' compound in 1993, and for
the 1992 shootout at Ruby Ridge; both involved federal agents.
||Having little regard for innocent human life, was not inhibited from
triggering the bomb.
The media generally refer to him as an individual terrorist, not as a
Christian, Roman Catholic, or Agnostic terrorist. Similarly, they did not refer
to his partner, Terry Nichols, as a born-again Christian terrorist.
4 That is a reasonable approach
because their religious beliefs and affiliations had little, if anything, to do
with their terrorist act. It appears to have been motivated by their hatred of
the government, their extremist militia beliefs and their disregard of the value
of human life.
In contrast, those terrorist atrocities committed by Muslims,
like 9-11, are often referred to as being
||Islamic extremists, and
In an address by President Bush on 2005-OCT-06, he used terms:
||Islamic radicalism, and
By using these terms, many view the media and the
U.S. government as attributing the terrorist acts to the religion of Islam and
not to the small minority of Muslims who are radical, violent, and fundamentalist perpetrators. Blaming
the entire religion of Islam
is guaranteed to generate an immense wellspring of anger among many Muslims,
During 2007-SEP, pollsters and communications
advisers to Republicans in Congress told the lawmakers that surveys had shown:
||Americans are not threatened by the word
||Qualifiers like "extremist" and "radical" are
generally interpreted as people who make verbal threats but do not follow
through with them.
||The term "Islamic terrorist" or "al Qaeda" is
the preferred term for violence-prone terrorists who happen to follow the
religion of Islam. 9
To maintain a consistent approach, the best
terminology might well be to:
||Identify perpetrators of a terrorist act as
simply terrorists, if their identity and motivation is unknown. This was
done, for example, in the bombings in New Delhi, India, in late 2005-OCT,
when there were many suggestions circulating initially about the religious
affiliation of the perpetrators.|
||Identify perpetrators of a terrorist act
motivated primarily by their:|
||Islamic faith as Muslim terrorists.
||Christian faith as Christian terrorists.
||Jewish faith as Jewish terrorists.
||Hindu faith as Hindu terrorists.
||Support for animal rights as animal rights
||Concern for the environment as
||Hatred of the government as extremist
||Hatred of racial minorities as white-supremacist
That short list would probably cover most of the
world's terrorist acts in the past decade.
We feel that it is preferable to be as specific as
possible when identifying the perpetrators of a terrorist act. For those acts
motivated by religion, we suggest that the specific wing, faith group, or
tradition be specified where possible. Every major world religion includes a
wide range of belief systems from the most conservative to the most liberal. By
not identifying the specific group responsible, some will view the blame as
spread equally over all believers of that religion.
Some people are only too willing to use the concept
of collective responsibility when considering terrorist attacks. For example,
they are willing to blame all Muslims for the acts of a few extremist, radical,
violent, Fundamentalist Muslims.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Timothy McVeigh," NNDB, at:
- Lou Michel, "Portrait of a Terrorist,"
CourtTV.com, 2001-MAY-09, at:
- Jimmy Li, "Timothy McVeigh: A Christian
terrorist?" undated, at:
- "Profile: Timothy McVeigh," BBC News,
- "President Addresses Joint Armed Forces
Officers' Wives' Luncheon," The White House, 2005-OCT-25, at:
- George W. Bush, "Fighting a Global War on
Terror," The White House, 2005-OCT-06, at:
Andrew Alderson, "Prince
Charles to plead Islam's cause to Bush,"
News.telegraph, 2005-OCT-29, at:
- Enver Masud, "Oxymorons in News Media," The Wisdom
Fund, 2005-OCT-29, at:
- Paul Bedard, "GOP ured to cite 'Islamic terrorists',"
U.S> News & World Report, 2007-SEP-27, at:
Copyright © 2005 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally posted: 2005-OCT-30
Latest update: 2007-SEP-28
Author: B.A. Robinson