Small Wars Journal

Well Intended but Largely Mistaken Attacks (Parts 2 & 3)

Well Intended but Largely Mistaken Attacks on NCTC and DHS "War of Words" Advisories

Parts 2 and 3 of 6 parts.

Part 1.

Part # 2: George Orwell to the Rescue?

Turning to the New York Post's editorial, which sees no problem whatever in the current lexicon, both its eye-catching title and its message throughout argue that the legendary George Orwell -- author of "Newspeak" fame in his great works "1984" and "Animal Farm" -- would disapprove of these NCTC and DHS recommendations and would opt for retaining these two controversial "holy war by holy guys" labels forever more.

With all due respect, I emphatically disagree. As the 20th Century's supreme authority on the manipulation and cynical distortion of language and labels, Orwell would have wanted these two words (and others like them) of asserted "holiness" and "martyrdom" on the part of al Qaeda, Hizballah, Hamas and their hater-mongers and suicide mass murderers to be rejected outright as the worst sort of "Newspeak" disinformation.

He would have strongly favored such sharply negative and condemnatory Arabic and Islamic terms as "Irhab" (Terrorism), "Hirabah" (unholy war, war against society, crimes against humanity), "mufsiduun" (evildoers, sinners, corrupters) and "shaitani" (satanic) -- along with several more of these demeaning and demonizing labels recommended below.

Those commentators who allege that these new sharp-edged labels would somehow "soften the Lexicon" and "blind us to the real nature of the enemy" would do well to reconsider their (unintentionally) pro-al Qaeda conclusions in that regard. After all, the Terrorists WANT to be known by the halo-polishing language of "Jihadi Martyrdom" and never, ever by the harsh and condemnatory language of Irhabi Murderdom (Terroristic Genocide).

A good start for them might be to agree with "Moderate Muslim" leader Dr. Zuhdi Jasser of the Phoenix-based American Islamic Foundation for Democracy (AIFD), who says that what is needed is a "Jihad Against The Jihad." Undoubtedly, he means a truly holy spiritual, intellectual, humanitarian and Umma-wide war to be led primarily by good-guy Muslims themselves against the patently false, murderous, politico-economic and Caliphate-centered so-called "Jihad" concocted by al Qaeda and its kind.

Surely, the latter meaning should not be allowed by faithful Jasser-type Muslims -- or by concerned non-Muslims, either -- to become virtually the ONE AND ONLY (and almost entirely violent) definition of that major, multi-faceted Islamic word. An attempt to prevent such co-opting and word-warping by the self-sanctifying Terrorists is in great part what the recent NCTC and DHS advisories were all about -- and now needs to be completed.

Incidentally, to assert that there is only "One Islam" or "One Jihad" is akin to arguing that there is only "One Christianity" -- in face of Roman Catholicism, of Eastern Orthodoxy, of multiple denominations of Protestantism, of Coptic Christianity, of the Marxist pretenses of so-called "Liberation Theology," of the cultic perversions of the suicidal Reverend Jim Jones in Guyana and of David Koresh's Branch Davidians in Texas -- and endlessly on, all across the planet.

Confusing Schizophrenic "Shari'a" With Qur'anic Islam Itself

Most of these critics quite correctly attack the many extremist, absolutist, cruel and anti-Qur'anic elements of "Shari'a" -- so-called Islamic Law -- but then fail to draw any distinction whatever between this hodge-podge of political, parochial, self-conflicting and schizophrenic "laws" on the one hand and the underlying religion of Qur'anic Islam on the other.

While Islam itself is supposed to be universal, consistent and eternal throughout, the so-called "Shari'a" differs widely (and even wildly) from tribe to tribe, nation to nation, cult to cult, mosque to mosque, hadith to hadith and among the multiple "Schools of Islamic thought."

For an example of how totally different one cult's or nation's "Shari'a" (Afghanistan's Taliban Shari'a, in this case) can be from what the Qur'an itself says about a simple conversion from Islam to Christianity, please check my May 18, 2006 essay "Islam's Real Enemy -- The al Qaeda Apostasy".

The message here is that the critics should be focusing their attacks on the self-evident evils of Salafi, Wahhabi, Muslim Brotherhood, Hizballah, Hamas and Taliban-style Shari'a, and stop short of condemning in its entirety the enormous religion that is itself a victim of such terroristic, genocidal and patently "false religious" excesses as are fomented and inflicted by the rampaging Terrorists night and day.

Part # 3: Defining and Defeating the Al Qaeda Narrative

As the NCTC/DHS experts have recommended, as George Orwell would surely have agreed and as US Joint Forces Command General James Mattis seems to have meant a year ago when he sharply condemned al Qaeda Terrorism as "tyranny in false religious garb," we should at long last stop calling these bloodthirsty haters and assassins by the self-sanctifying "false religious" labels they have so carefully chosen for themselves via their all-too-familiar narrative of

1. Jihad (holy war) by supposed

2. mujahideen (holy warriors) and UBL-anointed

3. shahideen (martyrs) destined for a promised 72-virgin

4. Jennah (Paradise) as reward for killing us alleged

5. kuffr (infidels) and, in time, the alleged

6. Shaitan al-Kabir (the Great Satan, America), as well...

Those who not only accept these terms as proper but who insistantly parrot them, as well, are either ignorant of or are deliberately ignoring the Cold War warnings of yet another great man of words -- the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- about the mind-bending dangers of "semantic infiltration," which in the late 1970s he (and Ronald Reagan's UnderSecDef for Policy, Fred Charles Ikle) correctly defined as follows:

"Simply put, semantic infiltration is the process whereby we come to adopt the language of our adversaries in describing political reality. The most brutal totalitarian regimes in the world call themselves 'liberation movements.' It is perfectly predictable that they should misuse words to conceal their real nature. But must we aid them in that effort by repeating those words? Worse, do we begin to influence our own perceptions by using them?"

At that time, we were carelessly parroting (and still are to this day!) the perfidious Soviets' and "Fascist-Left" Fidel Castro's self-serving, self-justifying, mind-bending and clearly Orwellian "Newspeak" narrative of

1. Wars of National Liberation by alleged

2. Progressive Movements and supposed

3. Patriotic Fronts on their way to heaven-on-earth

4. People's Democracy as a reward for killing all of us

5. Fascists and for defeating the evils of

6. American Imperialism

Viewing these two narratives side-by-side, one should realize that trying to condemn UBL's war as a "Jihad" (a "Holy War" without any HOLINESS at all) makes about as much sense -- or nonsense -- as someone's trying in the Cold War days to condemn the Communists as damnable "Liberationists" (waging wars of "Liberation" without any LIBERTY whatever), or continuing even now to call them "progressives" and "populists" and "people's democrats."

Beginnings of a "New Lexicon"

So, should we continue now to make the same mistakes we did for 70 years in the Cold War -- by mindlessly repeating in "useful idiocy" style the halo-polishing language of the Salafi-Wahhabi-Muslim Brotherhood and AQ-style suicide mass murderers?

Or should we hope that the NCTC, DHS and NSC experts will take the logical next step and recommend some of the Quran-compatible condemnatory terms which follow -- and which can be found in a Sept. 8, 2007 Small Wars Journal essay of mine, entitled "David Kilcullen's Call For a New Lexicon."

Importantly, the ubiquitous (It's everywhere! It's everywhere!!) word Jihad is neither avoided nor forbidden in the recommended new glossary, as some of the critics angrily contend, but is entered no fewer than FOUR TIMES -- to more clearly define its several confusing and often conflicting meanings.

irhab (eer-HAB) -- Arabic for terrorism, thus enabling us to call the al Qaeda-style killers irhabis, irhabists and irhabiyoun rather than the so-called "jihadis" and "jihadists" and "mujahideen" and "shahids" (martyrs) they badly want to be called. (Author's lament: Here we are, almost six years into a life-and-death War on Terrorism, and most of us do not even know this basic Arabic for terrorism.)

Hirabah (hee-RAH-bah) -- Unholy War and forbidden "war against society" or what we would today call crimes against humanity. Among the many al Qaeda-style crimes and sins which constitute this most "unholy war" are such willful, and unrepented transgressions as those enumerated in the next section of this proposed glossary of terms.

Jihad al Akbar (gee-HAHD ahl AHK-bar) -- this "Greater Jihad" is a personal and spiritual struggle or striving to become closer and more faithful to Allah and his teachings as set forth in the Qur'an.

Jihad al Saghir (gee-HAHD ahl Sahg-HEER) -- "Lesser Jihad" can be a physical -- and even a military -- struggle to protect or to free Muslims and non-Muslims from oppression, but only in strict accordance with reasonable and non-terroristic standards set forth in the Qur'an, which provides that only the Caliph (or head-of-state?) can legally declare such a Jihad. Osama bin Laden is neither.

Jihad al Kabir (gee-HAHD ahl kha-BEER) -- the spiritual and intellectual quest to promote common knowledge of Divine Revelation through all of Allah's Prophets and to carry out ijtihad (consultative efforts throughout the Umma) in applying both Revelation and Natural Law -- and Reason -- to human affairs.

"Jihad" (gee-HAHD, so called) -- al Qaeda's false label for both Irhab and Hirabah, which is at heart an anti-Islamic, apostate and forbidden "war against society" and a largely satanic assortment of "crimes against humanity," such as the many ruthless and willful violations of Qur'anic standards listed below.

mufsiduun (moof-see-DOON) -- Islam's word for evildoers, sinners and corrupters whose criminality and sinfulness, unless ended and sincerely repented, will incur Allah's ultimate condemnation on Judgment Day; Islam's optimum antonym for "mujahiddin."

munafiquun (moon-ah-fee-KOON) -- hypocrites to Islam who pretend to be faithful to the Qur'an but who willfully violate many of its basic rules, mandates and prohibitions. Once again, please refer to the ten AQ-style transgressions listed below.

hizb (hizb) - a political party, as in Hizballah (Party of God), or as the senior Saudi cleric Sheik Jafar Hawali recently called this radical and arguably apostate Shi'a organization Hizb al-Shaitan (Party of Satan, Party of the Devil).

fitna (FIT-nah) -- discord or conflict within the Umma (the Muslim Community), which all Muslims are admonished not to cause -- but which the Terrorists are causing deliberately and without hesitancy, apology or repentence

Jahannam (jyah-HAH-nahm) -- Islam's antonym for Paradise and meaning the Eternal Hellfire to which Allah on Judgment Day condemns unrepentant, unforgiven evildoers and hypocrites of the unholy war variety.

khawarij (kha-WAH-reej) -- outside-the-religion and outside-the-community individuals and activities; derived from the ancient al Qaeda-like militant Khawar or Kharajite sect, eventually suppressed and expelled as apostates and enemies of authentic, Qur'anic Islam.

istihlal (eesh-tee-LAHL) -- Islam's cardinal sin of "playing God," as Osama bin Laden is doing when he attempts to pervert Islam into his own suicide mass murderous image, and turning it into nothing but a perpetual killing machine -- of all Christians, all Jews and all Muslims who happen to disagree.

al-irtidad (ahl-EER-tee-dahd) or al-ridda (ahl-REE-dah) -- apostasy, a certifiably correct conviction for which is punishable by death in this life and by Allah's eternal damnation in the next, with al Qaeda's murderous excesses eventually to be labeled as "The al Qaeda Apostasy."

takfir (takh-FEER) -- the Wahhabi and al Qaeda-style practice of making wholesale (and largely false and baseless) accusations of apostasy and disbelief toward Allah and the Qur'an. Those radicals, absolutists and judgmental fanatics who engage in this divisive practice of false witness and excommunication are called "takfiri."

Shaitan and shaitani (shy-TAHN and shy-TAHN-ee-yah) -- Islam's Arabic words for Satan and satanic [example: Osama Abd' al-Shaitan, Osama Slave or Servant of Satan]

While there are at least as many more Arabic and Islamic words which could and will be added to any such "New Lexicon" of anti-Terrorism, this is at least a decent beginning. It consists mainly of words and meanings that the al Qaeda, al-Sadr and al-Shaitan killers do not want us to know -- or to use in making them, rather than us, the real enemies of what remains of authentic, Qur'anic Islam.

And out of these words of the New Lexicon we might then construct the optimum counter-narrative to al Qaeda's "false religious" one -- not in Western secular words only (such as criminals, thugs, bring to justice, barbarians, killers, mass murderers, etc) but in highly condemnatory Islamic religious words, as well, perhaps along the following lines:

1. Hirabah (unholy war, "war against society'") and/or Irhab (Terrorism) by ruthless

2. mufsiduun (evildoers, mortal sinners, corrupters) destined for

3. Jahannam (Eternal Hellfire) as a proper punishment for their

4. khawarij (outside the religion) violations of the Qur'an which are so serious, so

5. shaitani (satanic) and so unrepented as to constitute

6. al-Irtidad (or al-Ridda) al Qaeda (the AQ Apostasy) against Qur'anic Islam

It is not at all surprising that DHS UnderSecretary Charles Allen would comment recently to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that "no Western state has successfully countered the al Qaeda narrative." Truth be known, this can be done only -- or at least attempted primarily -- in Arabic and Islamic religious words, and that method has not yet even been TRIED.

At this point, these terms are known by all too few of us. But just as we have learned not only the deceitful "Jihadi" words of the AQ narrative but several other Arabic and Islamic terms, as well -- words such as fatwa (religious edict), intifada (insurrection), Allahu Akbar (Allah is Great), Shari'a (Islamic Law), Insha Allah (God Willing) and Umma (Muslim World) -- surely we can learn a few more, especially those which will at long last allow us to begin demonizing rather than continuing to canonize these genocidal evildoers.


Kha Nguyen

Sat, 06/07/2008 - 11:47am

I think the point is not how it matters to the insurgent or terrorists, but how these terms affect the mind of the true objective of COIN: the people. As Jim referred to earlier, the effects of labeling should not be underestimated. If we do not take up alternative labels to jihadists and freedom fighters/patriots, it makes it hard to justify the current GWOT as anything else other than a war against Islam or an occupation of Arab lands, which is what our enemies want us to do.

Furthermore, this is not argument from the West but I would advance, but also from the more moderate scholars of Islam, who would definitely not like for reverent terms such as jihadists be applied to suicide bombers and kidnappers. If one can accept the nuanced view of the struggles within Islam right now about what is proper Islam, the West I agree will aid these moderates by refusing to accept fundamentalists' version of Islam and its lexicon.

It seems that so m any are missing the point.

The terrorists could care less what the Infidels call them. It matters not if we, the US State Dept of which I have zero respect for, changes the verbiage and calls them something we feel is demeaning.

They already have the credibility that we are trying to take away. They attacked the Great Satan which puts mega-feathers in their caps.


Also, since when does the West dictate to a terrorist or define what they are. They have called this the Jihad and have called for the Caliphate to return.

It doesn't matter to them what we call them or as to how we classify them. They mock us for this and it is WE that have reacted to them and not the other way around.

No, they are Jihadi Scum and that is all there is to it.

Rick Hoppe (not verified)

Sun, 06/01/2008 - 1:51pm

I'm impressed by Jim's entry here, and it points out that we still, almost seven years into the GWOT, well over 15 years since radical Islamist terrorism focused directly on the US, do not understand the enemy. I've read Barnett, who undoubtedly has part of the answer, and Hammes, who I believe has more of the answer, but the basic problem set statement has yet to be developed.

We are still lacking the ability to see and understand the full scope of the problem, and if you read Hammes, the message is what matters. As long as we allow AQ and their associated travellers to define themselves, and even validate their definition, we will continue to cede the initiative to them

Rick Hoppe