After ISIS sympathizer Omar Mateen conducted the largest mass shooting in United States history in Orlando last Sunday, President Barack Obama was hesitant to use the term "radical Islam," or give any indication as to Omar Mateen's religious or political beliefs. The Department of Homeland Security's Countering Violent Extremism, or CVE, subcommittee echoed Obama's reluctance to use such terms in their recently released interim report, calling for a rejection of words such as "jihad" and "sharia" in their programs.
The report states the CVE subcommitte wishes to "reject religiously-charged terminology and problematic positioning by using plain meaning American English. [...] For example, [...] using American English instead of religious, legal and cultural terms like 'jihad,' 'sharia,' 'takfir' or 'umma.'"
The subcommitte clarifies their reasoning for censoring these terms out, citing a need for respect amongst all Americans:
Under no circumstance should we be using language that will alienate or be disrespectful of fellow Americans," the report says. "Thus, we need to be clearer in what we mean and how we say it. Further, we are at a particular moment on the world stage with global events driving fear, political and cultural rhetoric leaning on sharp and divisive language, and deep polarization and distrust across communities...We must speak with honor and respect about all communities within the United States. We should give dignity to the many histories and diversities within our nation and advocate for a consistent whole of government approach that utilizes agreed terms and words. Tone and word choice matter.
I agree that it is necessary to respect and honor the cultures and traditions of all who inhabit the United States, but doesn't censoring key terms used by violent extremists worldwide seem counter-intuitive? In order to understand our enemies, we need to know what they believe. Islamic terrorists believe they are on a jihad to cleanse the world of non-believers, and ISIS imposes its interpretation of sharia law on whomever it conquers. It's not disrespectful to be informed.
While both of these terms may have different, more peaceful interpretations, we can't simply ignore the language of those seeking to destroy the United States. Completely rejecting terms such as jihad and sharia simply because of their religious connotation sets a dangerous precedent, running the risk of misinforming the people in these CVE programs as to the motives of ISIS and other terrorist organizations.