Tuesday, June 14, 2016
If yesterday’s pronunciamentos proceeded from any mouth other than the one belonging to H.R. Clinton, I would accuse myself of overanalyzing her utterances in the shadow of the Orlando horror. But since it is precisely H.R. Clinton who used the phrase to be examined below, I feel comfortable accusing her of verbal chiseling.
The phrase she would not use, and still has not, is "radical Islam" - an association of Islam itself (whether erroneously interpreted or not) with the radical philosophy at work in the worldwide evil we're witnessing. (Permit me to add here that, for the time being, I'm on the fence as to whether some form of mainstream Islam is the procuring cause of the bloodshed we all condemn.) The phrase she used yesterday was "radical Islamism," pairing it with "radical jihadism," the latter an obvious and useless redundancy.
But so is "radical Islamism." "Islamism" has been used for some time now as something distinct from the religion of Islam itself, to describe ISIS-style comportment and political philosophy. What is my authority for this? Nothing less than the AP Stylebook, which pretty much single-handedly created the distinction with "Islam" in public discourse in 2013: An "Islamist," it ruled, is:
"An advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam. Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.
"Where possible, be specific and use the name of militant affiliations: al-Qaida-linked, Hezbollah, Taliban, etc. [This was in 2013, before ISIS came to the fore -- SL] Those who view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians, to militants known as jihadi."
This distinction, between "Muslims" and "Islam," on the one hand, and "Islamists" and "Islamism," on the other, was, according to this article in Slate, "framed as a victory for activists -- in this case, the Council on American-Islamic Relations [CAIR]," which promotes a conservative interpretation of Islam (the veil, for example) and has come under suspicion of promoting Sharia. Omar Ahmad, CAIR's founder is reported to have said: "Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth."
I can hear you saying out there -- no, really, I can hear you -- "Oh, come on, Steverino, you're imputing to Mrs. Clinton a meaning she could not possibly have intended. Islam, Islamism, eh. No one thinks she used that term in a deceptive or hair-splitting fashion." You may be right about the perception of her remarks; I haven't found any commentator who has called attention to her use of the word.
Don't you believe it. Does anyone think for a picosecond that those remarks were not vetted with a scanning electron microscope for their effect, interpretation, and escapability before Mrs. Clinton took the stage? It is exceedingly odd that she used a phrase that no one is accusing her of not having used. (Actually, Mr. Trump, in one of his sporadic astute observations, called attention to another dodge: she didn't actually "say" it in connection with anything of substance -- she only said she was OK with saying it. Maybe it's that metallic bray that makes her evasions seem so much more obvious than Mr. Clinton's.)
Nope; nope. Veteran dissembler Hillary deliberately chose "Islamism" over "Islam." If she's ever called on associating the slaughters with Islam, she has left open her ability to claim that she was only describing ISIS types, you know, "Islamists."
Condemning "radical Islamism," in other words, describes as "radical" something that is already radical: Islamism, the establishment of government based on the Koran.
Or, to put it more bluntly, she has said – or has said that she will permit herself to say – nothing.
I’ll say this – when it comes to rhetorical legerdemain, stringing together syllables that vanish into thin air, she learned from a master.