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EU language review shuns term "Islamic terrorism"

Written by: Staff

BERLIN, Apr 11 (Reuters) The European Union, tiptoeing through a minefield of religious and cultural sensitivities, is discreetly reviewing the language it uses to describe terrorists who claim to act in the name of Islam.

EU officials are working on what they call a ''lexicon'' for public communication on terrorism and Islam, designed to make clear that there is nothing in the religion to justify outrages like the September. 11 attacks or the bombings of Madrid and London.

The lexicon would set down guidelines for EU officials and politicians.

''Certainly 'Islamic terrorism' is something we will not use ...

we talk about 'terrorists who abusively invoke Islam','' an EU official told Reuters.

Other terms being considered by the review include ''Islamist'', ''fundamentalist'' and ''jihad''. The latter, for example, is often used by al Qaeda and some other groups to mean warfare against infidels, but for most Muslims indicates a spiritual struggle.

''Jihad means something for you and me, it means something else for a Muslim. Jihad is a perfectly positive concept of trying to fight evil within yourself,'' said the official, speaking anonymously because the review is an internal one that is not expected to be made public.

EU counter-terrorism chief Gijs de Vries told Reuters that terrorism was not inherent to any religion, and praised moderate Muslims for opposing attempts to hijack Islam.

''They have been increasingly active in isolating the radicals who abuse Islam for political purposes, and they deserve everyone's support. And that includes the choice of language that makes clear that we are talking about a murderous fringe that is abusing a religion and does not represent it.'' CARTOONS ROW The language used in the West when discussing Muslims and terrorism, and especially the charge by critics of Islam that it is an inherently violent religion, are highly sensitive and topical issues in Europe.

Danish newspaper cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad, including one showing him with a bomb in his turban, provoked violent protests earlier this year in a number of Muslim countries where people saw them as blasphemous. At least 50 people were killed.

Figures like Muslim-born Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali argued during the uproar over the cartoons that within Islam exists a hardline, intolerant movement that rejects free speech and democracy and deserves to be exposed and criticised.

The EU official familiar with the ''lexicon'' review said the point of using careful language was not to ''fall into the trap'' of offending and alienating citizens.

''You don't want to use terminology which would aggravate the problem,'' he said. ''This is an attempt ... to be aware of the sensitivities implied by the use of certain language.'' An initial paper on the issue is expected to be adopted in June.

''It is to help us understand what we are saying and try to avoid making mistakes. It's for the self-guidance of EU institutions and member states,'' the official said.

Omar Faruk, a Muslim British barrister who has advised the government on community issues, said there was a strong need for a ''new sort of political dialogue and terminology''.

Asked about the phrase ''Islamic terrorism'', he said: ''Those words cannot sit side by side. Islam is actually very much against any form of terrorism ... Islam in itself means peace.'' The widespread use of the expression ''just creates a culture where terrorism actually is identified with Islam. That causes me a lot of stress,'' Faruk added.


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