Howard Dean: Stop Referring To “Muslim Terrorists” In Describing Paris Attackers

220px-HowardDeanDNC-croppedFormer Democratic Party head Howard Dean has caused a controversy with his remarks on Wednesday criticizing people who call the murderers in Paris “Muslim terrorists.” Dean certainly makes a strong point when he says “They’re about as Muslim as I am,” he said. “I mean, they have no respect for anybody else’s life, that’s not what the Koran says.” It is easy to forget that most Muslims are as appalled and outraged as non-Muslims by these horrific crimes. However, I do not agree that we have to adopt another verboten term. The fact is the “Muslim extremist” or “Muslim terrorist” refer to the motivation and self-identity of the killers not their adherence to the proper reading of Islam. I have used it in publication as the most accurate descriptive term for those committing these atrocities.

While Dean is getting a lot of heat over this, I think that this is a fair point to raise, even if you reject the suggestion.

Here is the exchange:

HOWARD DEAN: You know, this is a chronic problem. I stopped calling these people Muslim terrorists. They’re about as Muslim as I am. I mean, they have no respect for anybody else’s life, that’s not what the Koran says. Europe has an enormous radical problem. I think ISIS is a cult. Not an Islamic cult. I think it’s a cult.

BRZEZINSKI: Interesting, yeah. Hmm.

DEAN: And I think you got to deal with these people. The interesting thing here, is we talked about guns the last time in regarding the United States, regarding how guns get in the hands of the kind of people that kill the two police officers here two weeks ago.

France has tremendous gun control laws, and yet these people are able to get Kalashnikovs. So, this is really complicated stuff, and I think you have to treat these people as basically mass murderers. But I do not think we should accord them any particular religious respect, because I don’t think, whatever they’re claiming their motivation is, is clearly a twisted, cultish mind.

Obviously, these murderers were motivated by their view of Islam, even yelling “Allahu akbar” as they fired and screaming that they have “avenged” Mohammed for being put into cartoons. Obviously, some Muslims agree with such violent action given the murder of dozens of non-Muslims after the Danish cartoon controversy in 2006.

The fact is that we would refer to Hindu or Christian terrorists if a crime were committed in the name of their faiths. Referring, as Dean suggests, to all such terrorists as “mass murderers” denies specificity in reporting and commentary on these particular criminals. The use of “Muslim” in stories like those coming out of Paris is meant to add specificity and distinction in the description of these terrorists from other terrorists. Unfortunately, we live in a world filled with such individuals of various faiths including stories on “Hindu terrorists” and other faith-based attacks. After all, shouldn’t Guy Fawkes be referred to as a “Catholic terrorist” for his role in the Gunpowder Plot (meant to to blow up the House of Lords over the persecution of Catholics)? Fawkes was motivated by his religion even though most Catholics are appalled at the notion of destroying Parliament.

Dean’s point is still worthy of discussion. There is a danger that these extremists will be taken for representatives of their faith. After all, it was a Muslim police officer who was gunned down begging for his life on the street.

However, that point can be made clear in the context of coverage. Indeed, I often refer to such individuals as “Muslim extremists” to convey not just their motivation but their position on the fringe of their faith. The concern is to add yet another prohibited term added to what seems an ever-lengthening list.

Dean’s comments however do serve to force a legitimate debate over whether it is far to refer to such extremists by their faith. I would be more convinced if the murderers were not expressly acting in the name of their faith and simply happened to be Muslim. It would then be inappropriate in my view to call murderers who acted for other purposes (like personal or economic crimes) by their faith. Yet, here you have extremists who acted clearly in adherence to their own warped view of religion. Notably, the New York Times, USA Today, NPR, and other major publications continue to use the terms “Muslim terrorists” or “Muslim extremists.”

What do you think?

481 thoughts on “Howard Dean: Stop Referring To “Muslim Terrorists” In Describing Paris Attackers

  1. Using words like “Muslim” and “Islamic” gives legitimacy to terrorists for recruiting naive people and people who lack knowledge. They claim they fight in the name of Islam or Allah. Well, I can say that I eat ice cream in pounds in the name of my mom, but does not mean my mom approves it, orders it or forces me to do it. Also, twisted Christian/non-Muslim people love to brand every single Muslim as evil and terrorist and it is their strategy for converting people and preventing people from reading/learning anything about Islam. I say stop terrorism and stop hate! Call terrorism for what it is: terrorism, but please do not legitimize it by giving it a prefix of a group or religion.
    As for those who claim that Muslims are not outraged, that they are not expressing that they do not condone the terrorism done by ISIS and such groups: well, you claim just shows how little you are willing to read, research and do to learn whether your claim is in fact correct! You have hundreds of Muslim leaders, scholars, imams, heads of states, individuals, famous people who have condemned the violence done in the name of their religion and them. Yet, you claim no one is saying anything publicly. When they do, you cry: “Fake!” When you do not hear about it, because your media will not publicize it, then you yell: “They are all the same! They are not saying anything!” Damned if they do, damned if they do not. Face it: most of you are racists, islamophobes and would give anything to destroy all that is of Muslims, including the moderate people who do not engage in violent acts. All violence is excused and condoned only if non-Muslims commit it. Even self-defense by your standard can be classified as terrorism.

    • dreamadventurer

      You sounded real good and have a point but the thing is naysayers are always louder than accepting and loving people *** Face it: most of you are racists, islamophobes and would give anything to destroy all that is of Muslims, including the moderate people who do not engage in violent acts. All violence is excused and condoned only if non-Muslims commit it. Even self-defense by your standard can be classified as terrorism.***

      I don’t think it’s Fake okay? I don’t think your Prophet is fake. I am a Christian. God is Merciful and Just and we must trust in him and not worry about nay sayers okay 😉

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