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Islamic Extremism or Violent Extremism

2 min read

In the recent summit regarding the conflict in the Middle East, Obama refrained from using the term “Islamic Extremism.” A heated debate concerning the reasoning and efficacy of this choice ensued. Obama has stated that the Islam practiced by extremists is a “perversion” of true Islam and calling the extremists “Islamic extremists” grants them legitimacy. According to Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor, “They need for this to be a war between the United States and Islam, for people to believe that they are religious figures and not just terrorists.” If this is a war against the West and Islam as a religion, then Muslims in the west might feel attacked and may have trouble aligning with America. Additionally, assigning a religion to the terrorists begets Islamic prejudice in the West. Label making brings about dangerous broad generalizations as not all Muslims believe in the destruction of America and the West.


Those in disagreement with Obama state the importance of “calling a spade a spade.” Though it is possible, and not unheard of that government officials and the non-islamic population looks to discredit Islam by assigning labels that procure prejudice, the fact of the matter remains that Al-Quaida and now the Islamic State in the Middle East are Islamic organizations that derive their lifestyle, choices, and doctrine from Islamic texts. It is important for those fighting them to understand these nuances in order to deal with the threat most effectively. It is true that a history of Christian terrorists, Jewish terrorists, and other religious terrorists exist, but the threat in the Middle East today is Islamic terrorism—their interpretation of the Kuran, their life style. Obama's detractos feel that veiling this fact could prove dangerous.

Is there truly a danger in ignoring the religion of these terrorists? Are all of the terrorists truly Muslim? Would calling the threat "Violent extremists" really belie the fact that the terrorists are Muslim? Do the costs of labeling the terrorists as Muslim (such as the creation of anti-Muslim Western prejudices) outweigh the benefits of this label?
These are all important questions the administration must answer, but perhaps more importantly, the public must consider, before proceeding.