Thursday, June 22, 2006
EU Drafts Lexicon on Islam
IslamOnline.net & News Agencies
"It's not a question of being politically correct but rather a small tool among many others for reducing incitement to radicalization," said Abbing.
BRUSSELS — Austria, the current holder of the EU's rotating presidency, has drafted a document of common vocabulary on Islam as part of linguistic efforts by the 25-member bloc to issue the first public communication lexicon aimed at avoiding stigmatizing terminology in dealing with the other.
"Unintended stigmatization resulting from an ill-considered choice of words may have serious negative psychological effects and thus contribute to the process of radicalization," says the text's preamble cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The document warns European governments and officials against the use of religious language or interference in any religious debate.
It said such interference "may discredit the efforts of mainstream Muslims to curb extremist interpretations of Islam."
It urges EU governments to "ensure that they do not inadvertently and inappropriately impose a sense of identity solely linked to religious affiliation."
Since taking over the EU's presidency in January, Austria has hosted conferences involving experts on Islam, religion and linguistics, hoping to finalize the document by December.
The 25-member bloc has been trying to define a "common vocabulary" to differentiate between Islam as a religion and individuals hijacking the Muslim faith.
For the European Commission, the EU's executive body, the common vocabulary's aim is to help all those who have no special knowledge of Islamic culture.
"It's not a question of being politically correct but rather a small tool among many others for reducing incitement to radicalization," said the commission's justice affairs spokesman Friso Roscam Abbing.
Rather than dictionary-style definitions, the EU lexicon tries to place words in their cultural, historical and political context to inform users and give them a better idea of how their use could be misunderstood.
The common lexicon, for the moment, consists of just three terms: "Islamist", "fundamentalism" and "jihad".
The document ruled out "Islamic terrorism," because it brackets Islam as a religion with terrorism.
It further has reservations about "Islamist terrorism" though the suffix -ist links terrorism to a distinct political ideology, not to a religion as a whole.
Most Islamists, the lexicon goes on, do not use violence to achieve their political goals and indeed the difference between Islamist and Islamic might not be obvious to the average European.
"As a rule of thumb, a reference to the name of the group or individual responsible for a terrorist attack, or the location of a terrorist attack, is a good choice," reads the text.
Or alternatively: "terrorism that invokes an abusive interpretation of Islam."
The lexicon also advised the Europeans to steer clear of the offensive "Islamic fundamentalism."
The term "fundamentalism," according to the lexicon, refers to beliefs and convictions which do not always have immediate political repercussions and when it is coupled into "Islamic fundamentalism" could be offensive to Muslims.
The third term is "jihad" which is commonly used in the media to mean "holy war".
The lexicon explains that the word refers to an intellectual, social or other kind of personal exercise -- "great jihad" -- or to a war in defense of Muslims; "little jihad."
"The latter is either regarded as a collective duty or as an individual obligation incumbent on any capable Muslim," says the document, adding that the word's misuse can also cause offence.
The UN Commission on Human Rights adopted in April last year a resolution calling for combating defamation campaigns against Islam and Muslims in the West.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said that seeing Islam as a "monolith" and distorting its tenets are among the many practices that now make up the term Islamophobia.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest US Muslim civil liberties, has called for issuing an annual report on Islamophobia across the world on a par with the global anti-Semitism report.
Posted by Editor at 7:19 AM