The Dark Lord was one mean dude. The witches and wizards in the Harry Potter books and movies were so paralyzed by fear that they didn’t speak his name.
Voldemort was referred to instead as “You Know Who” or “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”.
Now, says British anti-terrorism campaigner Maajid Nawaz, President Obama and other well-intentioned liberals are paralyzed by political correctness. They refuse to speak of ISIS and other Islamist groups by their proper names.
“We’re unable to say ‘Islamist extremism’ as distinct from Islam the religion,” he told us on “How Do We Fix It?”
“Add ‘ism’ on the end and it’s already clear that we’re not talking about Islam the faith. We’re talking about the politicalization of the faith.”
If we don’t use the right name for those who wish to impose their beliefs on others, Maajid says, “what we’re doing is disempowering those Muslims who are attempting to re-claim their faith from Islamists.”
Nawaz is a Sunni Muslim and knows of what he speaks. In his late teens and twenties, he was a leading member of Hizb ut-Tahri, a British-based Islamist group. His rejection of religious dogma came during four years in Egyptian jails, while serving time for political activities.
After returning to the UK in 2006, he co-founded Quilliam, a leading think tank devoted to upholding democratic values and combating extremism.
Language and messaging are a crucial part of his fight. The goal is to isolate insurgents from other Muslims, Maajid told us. “It doesn’t help that to deny it.”
“We know of no other insurgency that can survive without a level of support within the target communities they seek to recruit from.”
Jihadism has become a brand, which no longer depends on organizations to inspire young Muslims. “A bit like back in the 60’s people would wear Che Guevara on their tee-shirts, now it’s about raising the black ISIS flag.”
Unless President Obama and other leaders clearly speak out against Islamists, they are denying themselves a powerful weapon. By refusing to mention them by name, Maajid says, “the only thing we have to fall back on is the very thing liberals have been critical of – more assassinations and more war and more killing and more invasions.”
Maajid Nawaz wrote the book Radical: My Journey Out of Islamic Extremism. With Sam Harris, he co-authored Islam and the Future of Tolerance.
Photos: Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1. (top) Maajid Nawaz (above)