CSIS alters description of terrorists
Sunday, March 25, 2007
TORONTO • Canada’s intelligence service has changed the way it describes such terrorists as Osama bin Laden, dropping the word "Islamic" in favour of "Islamist."
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service had been calling al-Qaeda types Sunni Islamic extremists, but they are now to be labelled Islamist extremists.
"The Service believes that the term Islamist is more appropriate given that it has ideological rather than religious connotations," CSIS spokeswoman Barbara Campion said.
The terminology was adopted last year but is only coming to light now as intelligence reports reflecting the new wording are released under the Access to Information Act.
Those aligned with bin Laden may also be described as "associated with the ideology of al-Qaeda." Reports published on the CSIS Web site will use the new terms.
The change comes as counterterrorism officials are trying to build bridges with Muslims in the wake of last summer’s arrest of 17 suspects accused of belonging to a terror group that plotted truck bombings in Toronto.
Although many terrorist groups include references to Islam in their names and cite the religion to justify their violence, some Muslims are offended by language that links their religion to terrorism.
In the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, "Islamic" is an adverb for "the religion of Muslims," while Islamist is a noun or adjective for "a political and cultural movement favouring the establishment of Islamic states."
Tarek Fatah of the Canadian Muslim Congress said the term Islamic terrorism has helped extremists, who use it to bolster their claim that the West is at war against the Muslim religion rather than terrorists.
"Calling them Islamist extremists is a more accurate depiction because it tells you they are politically involved, because you can be an Islamic extremist in your views and be totally benign politically," he said.
Although only a few letters distinguish the old terminology from the new, terrorism expert Professor Martin Rudner said there is "a slight but important difference in nuance, in my opinion, between the two terms.
"The term Islamic infers that whatever is being referred to is inherent to Islam, as in 'the Islamic faith.' Islamist is a more recent term, which is meant to imply a somewhat extreme, not mainstream, variance of the Muslim faith," said the director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies.
"I don’t see this as being merely politically correct," Prof. Rudner said. "The different terms distinguish between something mainstream and another which may use Islamic symbols and meanings for an extremist cause."
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