Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Labeling in the name of hate

Sunday morning, on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” the respected newsman asked Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson why his agency and President Obama shied away from the term “Islamic extremism” and “Islamic terror,” referring instead to it as “violent extremism.”

“There's no question that these groups like al Shabaab and ISIL are driven by theology, are driven by their view of Islam, however perverted it may be,” Stephanopoulos said. “Why not call it that? And does it undermine our strategy not to label it clearly?”

Johnson quickly shot back.

“First, whether it's called Islamic extremism or violent extremism, groups like ISIL, ISIL in particular, represent a very dangerous terrorist organization and a serious potential threat to homeland security.”

“Now I have to say, when I travel around the country and meet with Muslim leaders in this country, in these engagements that I have, they all tend to say pretty much the same thing, which is that ‘ISIL has hijacked my religion,’” Johnson explained “And so in my view, if we start referring to ISIL as occupying any form of the Islamic theology, we're pretty much dignifying them as occupying some form of that faith.

“… Islam is about peace and brotherhood. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in this world and the true Islamic faith has nothing to do with what ISIL represents. And so to start labeling them as Islamic or Islamic State in any respect, I think gives them far more dignity than they deserve.”

I don’t think I could have said it better myself. And it does not undermine any strategy, as Stephanopoulos queried.

Actually, what it does is incite hate.

Why are so many people insistent on religiously labeling violent killers? Yes, members of ISIL refer to themselves as Islamic, but when we refer to them as such, in conjunction with terrorism, it’s like creating a double negative. Most of the world disagrees with its ideology, so why bestow on the group a faith that is about positivity?

In this country, we – and some media – feel the need to label a person. The “black man … ,” the “Mexican woman … ,” the “Muslim crowd … .” For the most part, the descriptions are often accurate, but it is how and when they are used. Too often, it is when another descriptive could be used, which won’t push a stereotype on the individual (s) or said group.

We as humans – especially those who profess to any faith, religion and/or spirituality – love to use words like “peace, kindness and unconditional love” in the name of a Higher Power. But with our beliefs come a level of responsibility that requires us to teach right from wrong … not just go along with the crowd.

ISIL has hijacked a religion to gain followers and in exchange, has poisoned the minds of individuals who are ignorant, prejudice and who just don’t understand the true meaning of love and acceptance. When we buy into terrorist self-prophecies, we are fueling our own fears and unknowingly supporting their “cause.”

And the seed of hate is planted. Just that easy.

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