The Blog

Willful Misreading

Bloggers and bureaucrats fail to name the enemy.

12:05 AM, Jun 3, 2008 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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This is wrong for too many reasons to list here. U.S. policymakers are not granting unintentional legitimacy to the terrorists by calling them jihadis. The jihadis already have legitimacy in the eyes of many because their actions are explicitly endorsed by leading Islamic clerics. This point is made by McCarthy eloquently in his book when he discusses his investigation into the teachings of the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel Rahman. In addition, the terrorists do not rely on American policymakers to grant them legitimacy.

Consider the Saudi Wahhabi establishment, which governs the two most holy cities of all of Islam and whose creed is exported to the tune of tens of millions of petrodollars every year. "Jihad" is a regular part of their rhetoric. The muscle hijackers responsible for securing the planes during the 9/11 operation thought they were fulfilling their duty for jihad, as called for by leading Saudi clerics. So too did dozens of inmates at Gitmo and hundreds more in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, who responded to fatwas calling for jihad issued by the Wahhabi establishment. The mullahs of Iran repeatedly call for jihad against their enemies. So do Palestinian organizations on a daily basis. Even the clerics of the leading Sunni clerical establishment, the Al Azhar University in Egypt, repeatedly implore
their followers to wage jihad against America and the "infidels."

The problem is not that American policymakers or analysts call our enemies "jihadists." The problem is that leading Islamic clerics have already established the legitimacy of their actions. Self-censorship on Washington's part won't turn back this tide.

Thomas Joscelyn is a terrorism researcher, writer, and economist living in New York. He is the author, most recently, of Iran's Proxy War Against America (Claremont Institute).