Bioethics Blogs

Countering Islamic Extremism

By Professor Peter Singer

 

PRINCETON – Last month, US President Barack Obama hosted a three-day summit on “Countering Violent Extremism.” That term has already spawned a new abbreviation, “CVE,” used no fewer than 12 times in a Fact Sheet that the Obama administration released on February 18.

The Fact Sheet also uses the term “violent extremism” 31 times.  How many times do, terms like “Islam,” “Islamic,” or “Muslim” appear?   Zero. There is not even a reference to the “Islamic State,” That entity is referred to only by the initials “ISIL.”

This is not an accident; it is part of a strategy to win the support of mainstream Muslims. Riham Osman, speaking on behalf of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which participated in the summit, said that using terms like “radical Islam” harms the cause of stopping the violence. This may partly reflect the Muslim community’s understandable fears that associating Islam with terrorism and violence would contribute to an increase in attacks on, or discrimination against, all Muslims.

Another reason that has been offered for not referring to “Islamic radicalism” or the “Islamic State” is that to do so concedes the terrorists’ claims that they are acting in accordance with Islam’s teachings. That might draw others, who regard themselves as pious Muslims, to join them.

Finally, the repeated use of “Islamic” as part of the description of enemy groups may make it appear that the West is “at war with Islam.” That could lead more moderate Muslims to fight alongside the extremists, thus broadening the conflict and making it more difficult to end.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.