Triumph Over Terror (TOT) Interfaith Statement sign now

Since September 11th 2001 and before, our nation has been under attack by a global network of terrorists who murdered thousands of our fellow American citizens in New York, Washington DC, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. This terrorist network attempts to legitimize its murderous behavior by claiming to be performing it under the auspices and authority of Islam, the religion for 1/5th of humanity as well as millions of our fellow American citizens. These perpetrators have misrepresented their claimed faith by asserting that their actions honor God and have falsely maintained that the Quran justifies these killings as acts of pure devotion. These distortions and fabrications have been correctly labeled as the "hijacking" of a faith by a misguided few.

Two questions are essential to our national understanding and national interests: 1. How do we correctly communicate about the issue of terrorists claiming religious authority without implying that all followers of Islam share this flawed interpretation? 2. How do we communicate accurate information about religious belief and not unintentionally give the terrorists the very religious authority they claim?

1. How do we communicate correctly about the issue of terrorists claiming religious authority without implying that all followers of Islam share this flawed interpretation? First it is useful to understand the differences between the terms Islam and Muslim. Islam is a noun referring to a complete faith tradition similar to the terms Christianity and Judaism. Muslim is a noun referring to an individual who practices Islam, and in common use, is similar to the terms Christian and Jew. For example, a terrorist can be Muslim, Christian, Jewish or a practitioner of any or no faith. The root for the word Christian or Jew is derived from the religion that they practice, Christianity or Judaism respectively. However, for Muslims, practicing the religion of Islam, there is a difference in terminology mu refers to the practitioner + Islam = Muslim. In this way "Islamic" and "Muslim" are not equivalent terms and therefore cannot be used interchangeably. Islamic refers to the very nature of the religion and carries the connotation of a mandated observance for all who practice Islam irrespective and independent of their degree of success in doing so. Muslim when used as a modifier (adjective, not a noun), like Christian and Jewish, implies the actions are the result of the understanding and interpretation of the practitioner. The use of the term Islam then implies that the religion of Islam is responsible for the terrorism; Muslim clearly indicates the claimed faith of the perpetrator, but does not necessarily imply the agreement or support of all the faithful.

Many times in our public discourse the term used to describe a fanatical religious terrorist is Islamist. In current usage, this term is intended to narrow the category to mean a subset of those who practice the faith of Islam. Unfortunately, the use of Islamist (because it uses the root word Islam and not Muslim) refers to all the faiths practitioners instead of a subcategory thereof.

2. How do we communicate accurate information about religious belief and not unintentionally give the terrorists the very religious authority they claim?

Slapping the term "Islamic or Islamist" on a terrorist if he claims to be fighting under the banner of Islam legitimizes his actions as derived from the religion of Islam, its theology in other words. This tactical misstep elevates the terrorist to the level of "a spokesman" within the religious spectrum of Islam, conferring upon him an undeserved religious authority. This is counter-productive to Americas National Security interest by creating a much broader and more unified front of opposition against us in the Muslim World then necessary. This alienation of Muslims from our mutual struggle against violent extremism thrusts the terrorist into the role of the faiths defender against the perceived War on Islam.

By unintentionally granting the Muslim terrorist a religious platform that carries the weight of total religious authority (Islam), rather than the lesser authority of a single interpreter of the religion (Muslim), the religion of Islam is essentially hijacked in public discourse and taken in an undesirable direction providing support to the terrorists claim that the US is waging a War on Islam. The use of phrases like Islamic terrorist implies that the terrorist is a product of Islam and creates the unintended consequence of fear in the US populace of anything associated with or connected to the term Islam or Islamic. American Muslims are left to bear the brunt of the consequences for this collective fear and this small minority (2\% of the US population) cannot overcome this mindset without the support of other Americans.

As our country struggles to protect itself from the violence perpetrated by Al-Qaedas global militant anarchist movement, we must remember to not give up our pluralistic American values in the process. American Muslims were also victims of 9/11. They voluntarily serve in our Armed Forces along with their fellow soldiers to protect our country from those who would do our nation harm and work diligently to help improve our national image abroad.

Muslims arent seeking special treatment, but if one can't substitute the word "Jew" or "Christian" for "Muslim" and the result be socially acceptable discourse, then it shouldn't be tolerated for Muslims. The same applies for the word "Islam" being substituted by "Christianity" or "Judaism." In our history we have struggled to weed out bigotry whether based on race against African-Americans or religion against Jewish Americans via anti-Semitism.

We call upon our fellow Americans to help promote "Civility in our Public Discourse" by ceasing to use the term "Islamic or Islamist" when describing "Terrorism." The impact of this action will not only disarm the terrorists of their propaganda claming our struggle to defend America is really a "War on Islam", but it will also eradicate the use of bigoted language such as "Islamofascists" and others from our Public Discourse.

In our global struggle against this latest wave of "Violent Extremism," the terrorist should be made accountable for his own actions and not be able to cloak himself in the protection of religious authority. He's a terrorist and should be called such! He has a cultural, ethnic, national and political identity; he doesn't deserve to be elevated to the position of "Spokesman for a Faith."

Let us come together as Americans and treat one another in a more civil manner in our public discourse by renouncing the use of such counter-productive terms to our mutual national interest. As our policy makers have repeatedly told us, the Global War on Terror can be won only by winning over the hearts and minds of Muslims around the globe. The use of language that alienates those we aim to win over will only make success harder to achieve and in the end that only really helps the terrorists.

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Robert HayesBy:
Justice, rights and public orderIn:
Petition target:
The U.S. Congress and Whitehouse as well as Media Editors and Publishers

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