Linguistic Anthropology

The study of language has been part of anthropology since the discipline started in the 1ate 1870s. This site is a place for linguistic anthropologists to post their work and discuss important events and trends in the field.

Friday, April 25, 2008

"Terminology to define the terrorists"

According to the Associated Press, the US Homeland Security department has produced a report entitled "Terminology to define the terrorists: recommendations from American Muslims."

One of those recommendations is to avoid using the word jihad to describe the efforts of al-Qaeda and other declared enemies. Jihad, which translates as either 'holy war' or 'spiritual struggle,' is an important concept in Islam, and as the report points out, calling terrorists jihadis may serve to "unintentionally [legitimize] their actions."

My colleagues Becky Shulties and Aomar Boum point out that the debate over whether it is ever appropriate to call terrorism jihad has been an active one both among Muslim scholars and in the media - particularly at al Jazeera. (Al Jazeera Arabic uses the term al irhab "terrorism".)

While I'm somewhat uneasy with government-academic partnerships such as the Minerva Consortia (see also here), I can recommend that the military and intelligence agencies read published work on the subject. (With apologies to the many scholars whose work I have not linked to.)

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