Islamists Everywhere

It seems like Islamists (also here) are everywhere nowadays. Turn a rock and you find an Islamist underneath. But the latest trend is intriguing because now it looks like you don’t even have to be a Muslim to be an Islamist.

Kenny Baer was supposed to be knowledgeable about British politics and elections and was substituting for Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo while Josh was enjoying his honeymoon. But Kenny doesn’t sound much like an expert to me.

Word just came in that the far-far-far left, Islamist candidate George Galloway has defeated Oona King.

Gorgeous George Galloway an Islamist? How? Why? Does the word “Islamist” mean anything? Or is it reduced to a slur now?

The other culprit is a regular one, Daniel Pipes.

Is Grover Norquist an Islamist? Paul Sperry, author of the new book, Infiltration, in an interview calls Grover Norquist “an agent of influence for Islamists in Washington.” When asked by why a Republican anti-tax lobbyist should so passionately promote Islamist causes, Sperry implied that Norquist has converted to Islam: “He’s marrying a Muslim, and when I asked Norquist if he himself has converted to Islam, he brushed the question off as too ‘personal.’” As Lawrence Auster comments on this exchange, “Clearly, if Norquist hadn’t converted to Islam, or weren’t in the process of doing so, he would simply have answered no.”

There is more circular and specious reasoning in the same blog post. According to Pipes, Norquist is an Islamist because he married a Muslim and might even secretly have converted. Also, his wife is an Islamist because she worked at an Islamist organization which was co-founded by Norquist. Thus, through his wife, Norquist is an Islamist. And on and on it goes.

I have profound and vehement political disagreements with both George Galloway and Grover Norquist. In fact, I don’t even like their political style. But come on, they are not Islamists in any useful sense of the term.

While the term “Islamist” might have some meaning among scholars, it has no information value, other than that the person using it doesn’t like the person he is accusing, in normal usage. I guess Bill Allison should be convinced now that the term [Islamist …] is […] meaningless.

By Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer


  1. I had been telling my friends and people around for over two decades starting from my school days (early 1950s) that they should not use the words “barbaric / barbarian / etc” for cruel / cruelty / etc., because the British used to capture people from Africa for slave trade. The people captured were, mainly from Barbar tribes (Barbar means people having curly hair). To cover up their cruelty and inhuman acts, the British slave-traders coined the term barbaric for cruelty to defame innocent Africans who were traded as slaves by the British and to generate hatred for them in the hearts of other people (the Whites). Those Africans are now living second grade life in USA. So much so that words “barbarian and barbaric” became part of dictionaries (inferior to another land, culture, or people, lacking refinement, learning, a cultural level more complex than primitive savagery, marked by a lack of restraint, having a bizarre, primitive, or unsophisticated quality).

    Similarly, The American administration, to cover up their cruel and inhuman mass-killing of unarmed civilians including old men / women / children / even infants in Afghanistan and Iraq not even sparing wedding parties and funerals, has coined the term “Islamist” as a symbol of hate to cover up their evil deeds and create hate for anything related to the word “Islam”. To create some living example to make their lies look like true, they even dub those persons as Islamist who may by themselves be against Islam and are known to people as not-good people.

    Let it be clear that Islamist is a recently coined word. A person who embraces Islam is a Muslim and not Islamist.

  2. sepoy: Thanks for the link to Rob’s post. He discusses Kenny Baer’s another statement in the same post that I found objectionable but didn’t write about.

    Dad: Your etymology for “barbarian” isn’t completely correct. From what I know, The English word comes from Latin and Greek. In those languages it denoted others which in general are supposed to be uncivilized (that seems to be a common human habit). As such it was used for a lot of people, like the barbarian Germanic tribes to the north for example. It is generally believed (though people disagree) that the name “Berber” to the people of North Africa was given by the Romans and is derived from the Latin form of “Barbarians”.

    As far as I know, the British did not engage in slave trade in North Africa. Subsaharan Africa is a different matter. Most North Africans today call themselves Arabs or Berbers, but both are probably descended from Berbers. Thus Berbers are the people of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, etc. There are a few Berber tribes south of the Sahara as well in probably Mali. So there are no Berbers living in the US today. Most African Americans are descended from West Africans.

    “Islamist” is indeed somewhat newly coined. I think it originated not with the American government but with French scholars in the 1980s. In academia, an Islamist is someone associated with political Islam. Examples would be Jamat-e-Islami in Pakistan, Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen in Egypt etc. Now the term has morphed and become quite useless.

  3. So far as dictionary is concerned, you are right.

    During my deputation to Libya (1976-1983), I had asked a Libyan engineer Lt Col Barbar about it. According to him, the word should be written as “Barbar” and not “Berber”. Barbar means “Free Men”. They were the people of Habsha and the area around. (Now, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Southern Sudan).

    One identity he pointed was that Barbar had acute curly hair. The people who were slave-traded also had acute curly hair. In later times Barbar, like other people, spread to other areas (Egypt, Libya, Tunis, Morocco, etc)

  4. So Zack, is yr beef with the term Islamist as such or the using of it as an insult when it doesn’t apply (as in “Grover Norquist isn’t calling for Sharia”)?

    As to Baer and Galloway. I agree that he isn’t an Islamist – he’s a creature of the left and Islamism is rightist. But I do think it would be fair to call him an Islamist sympathizer, though even that would be somewhat inaccurate as he seems to be much less animated by any love for Islam or Muslims than anti Americanism (which he characterizes as anti-Imperialism).

    Maybe “Islamist” is a bad term. I don’t know what was wrong with “fundamentalist” or extremist.

  5. stress: I have used “Islamist” myself a few times, but the problem is how to precisely and properly define the term. Everyone seems to have a different definition and it confuses things more than it clears them up.

    About Galloway, I haven’t really read anything about him that would even paint him as an Islamist-sympathizer. He seems more like a strange kind of leftist showman and the sort of politico who likes to make a show of sticking it to the man (like Blair, US, etc.) He has made fawning remarks about Saddam but haven’t heard him say much about the Islamists or even Bin Laden.

    The problem with “fundamentalist” is that its origin is in Christianity and people sometimes try to equate some of these developments in Christianity and Islam due to the use of the same term even though they are quite different. So “Islamic fundamentalism” might work as a term if one kept in mind that it is nothing like Christian fundamentalism.

    On the other hand, extermist is too general.

  6. Following facts about the West prove their mental aptitude in coining the words “Barbarian” and “Islamist”

    (1) “Tipu” was a ruler of a state in India (1750-1799). As long as the British fought alone, Tipu always defeated them. But he could not come over their diplomacy, conspiracy and intrigue. Ultimately, he was defeated and killed. British named their dogs after him. Mind, opposite to the West, dog in India is known as a very lowly and dirty animal.

    (2) Mughal was family name of rulers of India before the British rule. To humiliate the name “Mughal”, British started calling their lowest catagory domestic servants and slaves as Mughal, sort of giving them a generic name.

    (3) Makkah, the holy city of Muslims, was earlier spelled as “Mecca”. People in the West, including America, British and some European counties, stated naming their pubs as “Mecca”. Ultimately, government of Saudi Arabia issued an official handout changing spelling for the holy city to “Makkah”.

  7. I thought “Islamist” simply meant “supporter of Sharia” – I don’t think this would apply to Saddam-sympathiser George Galloway.

    What other definitions of “Islamist” have you seen?

  8. Goerge Carty wrote: I thought “Islamist” simply meant “supporter of Sharia

    That’s a bad definition. Islamic law calls for Muslims to avoid alcohol. Everytime Joe Muhammad orders a Shirley Temple instead of a Budweiser, he is following Sharia. Does that make him an Islamist?

    Thebit has a good rundown on the UK elections. Baer stinks. But his view on the British election is the elite-pundit consensus. The Muslim Menace marches on.

  9. Here is a quote from the NYSun

    It seems pretty clear that the great majority of Britain’s 2.5 million Muslims obeyed the instructions of their imams or community leaders and voted en bloc for whichever antiwar party seemed to have the best chance of defeating the Blair government. The Muslim defection from their traditional allegiance to Labor cost Mr. Blair up to half of the seats he lost and partly accounts for the unusually strong anti-Blair vote in London.

    That Muslim vote is now also Islamist, in the sense of subordinating all other considerations to religious objectives.

    How long before American Muslims (voting, say, for Cynthia McKinney) are called Islamists? We’ll probably see these accusations agains Canadian Muslims within the next three to five years.

  10. I could be wrong on this but I think Galloway has also expressed support for the Iraqi insurgency which is a very thin line from support for al Qaeda (whatever term best applies, but commonly called Islamist in western media). But like I said, he seems more motivated by anti Americanism than pro-Islamism.

    But you’re right, being pro Saddam and pro-Islamist is a very different thing.

  11. George: “Supporter of sharia” is a very broad term and itself very confusing. As I understand it, Islamist refers to specific political movements based on religion. Examples would be the Muslim Brotherhood, Jamat-e-Islami etc.

    Ikram: The NY Sun article is really bad. If these are our foreign policy pundits, we are in deep shit.

    stress: Support for the Iraqi insurgency is not enough, in my opinion, for one to become an Islamist or even an Islamist-sympathizer necessarily. As you mention, it can be due to anti-Americanism. Also, there are different strains of the insurgency, from Zarqawi to Baathists and Sunni nationalists.

  12. I agree. Applying the term to either is a considerable over-reach. “Supported by some Islamists” might work. Along with stories elaborating the connections and history. Not more. Sloppy at best.

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