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Not Muslim, only violent!

Not Muslim, only violent!

Author: Nandini Jawli
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 14, 2008

The British Government has issued guidelines to all its departments to switch to politically correct parlance while referring to extremists, lest Muslims be hurt

The UK Government has drawn up controversial new guidelines on the "language of terrorism" to advise civil servants on how to talk about terrorism without causing offence to Muslims.

The rule book is designed to suggest ways to avoid implying that Muslims are specifically to blame when talking about the nature of a terror threat. Officials have also been instructed to no longer blame fanatical extremism on Islam for fear of upsetting the Muslim community. The guidelines, written by Home Office civil servants, suggest that instead of talking about Muslim or Islamist extremism, officials should say "violent extremism".

These instructions are part of the new counter-terrorism guidelines, which suggest that phrases such as "Islamic terrorist" and "jihadi fundamentalism" are too inflammatory and imply that all Muslims explicitly are responsible for extremism. It reflects the Government's decision to abandon the 'aggressive rhetoric' of the so-called war on terror.

The new lexicon of terror surfaced briefly, when Home Secretary Jacqui Smith made a speech on counter-terrorism recently, declaring violent extremism to be "anti-Islamic". The new focus is far removed from former Prime Minister Tony Blair's rhetoric after September 11, 2001, when he spoke of "Armageddon" and the justification for war. Now civil servants are advised that careful language is a vital tool in the war on terror.

The guidelines leaked to Britain's media have been referred to in the local newspapers as "the new phrasebook". A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed to The Pioneer that the document had been distributed to "key delivery partners" including chief constables, local authorities and Government offices. However, the department insists that these are simply "guidelines" and not a phrase book. The spokeswoman said, "This communication guidance is based on in-depth qualitative research, but it is not intended to be prescriptive." The Government thinks that "coherent and effective cross-Government communications" are important as measures of counter-terrorism.

The Home Office also added that the guide was "not about political correctness" but about ensuring that officials were not misunderstood. "This is not intended as a definitive list of what not to say but rather to highlight terms which risk being misunderstood and, therefore, prevent effective reception of the message," states the document. It has been produced by a Home Office research, information and communications unit which was set up last summer to counter Al Qaeda's mispropaganda and win hearts and minds.

The internally circulated document has been officially termed as the "language guidance booklet" and is part of the first pack in a series of communications about the Government's "prevent strategy". The strategy relies on all sectors - public, private, voluntary and community - working with the Government in its aim of stopping people becoming or supporting violent extremists.

According to this key language planning, "Islamophobia" should be simply termed "discrimination", while those purporting to carry out jihad and attacks in the name of Islam should be called "criminals, murderers or thugs".

It also claims that the use of concepts like "the struggle for values" or "a battle of ideas" plays into the hands of those who wish to frame the issue in terms of a clash of civilisations between Islam and the West. A more productive approach is to stress the idea of shared values, it suggests.

The Home Office researchers have prepared a table of key words and have suggested possible alternatives. It suggests that "challenge" or "threat" should be used instead of terms like "war", "battle" and "clash". "Rehabilitation" is preferred for "de-radicalisation".

According to the changed lexicon, "radicalisation" is to be replaced with "brainwashing" or "indoctrination" in order to avoid the misperception that terrorism is a product of Islam. However, words like "terrorism" and "violent extremism" continue to remain in the list as a possible alternative to "Islamic/Islamist/Muslim extremism".

Such language planning is seen as the British Government's newly acquired sophistication in its approach to counter-terrorism. It is based on the realisation that to avoid implying that specific communities are to blame, it is better to enable communities to challenge the idea of violent extremism.

The guidelines make up part of a £ 45 million plan to tackle violent extremism in local communities and win the "hearts and minds" of Muslims. In the first year the funds will only be handed out to areas with a Muslim population of more than 4,000 based on 2001 Census data.

The guidelines have provoked a critical response from the Opposition that is claiming that the Government is bowing under the pressure of political correctness. The Tories have questioned what the Government aims to achieve by striking off a few words. The funding to be provided to Muslim dominated areas has drawn flak of being "too simplistic" and "crude" population specific approach, with "limited official understanding" of the geography of violent extremism in Britain.

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