COMMENTARY

Islamic Terminologies Get Bad Press!

Is Islam the only way to talk about Christian fundamentalism? And why did Mehdi Hasan have to call Christian fundamentalists ‘Christian Taliban’?

Those were questions posed by Hafsa Kanjwal as she expressed her angst in an article on Aljazeera.com against a video posted by Mehdi Hasan’s on the Intercept.

“Hasan’s video relegates Islamic terminologies, which Muslim leaders and scholars have been working hard to reclaim, to the inaccurate definitions advanced by Islamophobes,” Kanjwal posited.

She pointed to the following terminologies which have now come to foster negative views and perceptions in the corridors of public debate.

Mullah – which simply refers to someone who is learned in Islamic law and theology – becomes synonymous with “religious bigot”.

Sharia – which is a way of life for Muslims – is equated with the right wing’s fixation on “sharia law,” or a myopic legal system that seeks to infringe on everyone’s rights.

Caliph – which means a civic and religious leader – becomes synonymous with a fascist ruler.

“Allahu Akbar” or “God is the greatest” – a phrase Muslims say during their daily prayers – is turned into a catch-all phrase embodying religious extremism.

Kanjwal declared, “If we are to speak to today’s destructive political moment, then let us do so with critical inquiry, honesty, and rigor. Now – when people of all faiths and backgrounds need to question their own role in perpetuating extremism and terror – is not the time for simplistic overtures.”

Additionally, she charged, “For Hasan, who has sought to combat Islamophobia, this video ironically harps on the most basic of Islamophobic tropes. Surely, there is no need to implicate Muslims whenever we speak about religious extremism.” 

Readers Bureau, Contributor

Edited by Jesus Chan

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