Monday, December 14, 2009


Suffocating Suffixes

By Layla Anwar, An Arab Woman Blues

December 13, 2009

Was reading the latest from the West Bank where Jewish settlers attacked a mosque in the village of Yasuf, torching the mosque's library and spraying death threats with " get ready to pay the price, we will burn you all." (source)

Now the article, and that is not the only one nor the first time, calls these culprits hardline Jews. Fair enough.

Christians who aggress Muslims are also called hardline Christians.

Adjectives like hardline, extremist, ultra-orthodox, fundamentalist, occasionally fanatical...almost always precede; qualifying those particular groups, designating them apart from the rest of mainstream Jews and Christians. Again, fair enough.

But did you notice something when it comes to Muslims ? I sure did.

I have observed time and time again, the specific use of language to designate hardline and extremist Muslims. They are not called hardline Muslims they are called IslamIST.

Hardline Jews and Christians are not called JewishIST or ChristianIST but hardline Muslims are called IslamIST.

You see that is an important differentiation for me. Very important actually.

The repetitive use of certain terms ultimately end up coloring one's perceptions and suffixes possess this uncanny ability to remain affixed in our brains, in the use of our language and ultimately in our perception.

When one says, reads or hears the following sentence - an extremist, hardline, fanatical Jew or Christian - there is a gap, a separation, a space between the adjective and the subject, meaning that the mind registers on some level, that not all Jews and Christians are extremists or fanatical.

However when you read the following label - Islamists attacked ...the mind registers Islam and by correlation Muslims. Thus Islam and Muslims become correlated on some level with the suffix IST. All Islam and all Muslims become on some subliminal level IslamiST.

This is so currently widespread that hardly anyone ever notices these important "nuances", they are taken as given and are never questioned.

Consequently any outward signs of religious affiliation becomes automatically labeled as IslamiST too.

A woman wearing the veil is an Islamist, a man with a beard becomes an Islamist, but a head covered Jewish woman (yes religious Jewish females also cover their hair) or a Jewish man with a beard, curls and a kippa are seen as "orthodox".
The same goes for a Christian actually. A man or a woman wearing a huge cross around their necks does not automatically make them a "Christianist" in the perception of others.

Muslims on the other hand, in particular those living in the West, have become singled out as THE group capable of the most extremist acts and are seen overall as an extremist group, regardless. They are all seen as IslamIST.

But when you come to think of it, it is in fact THE group of people that has been under the heaviest violent attacks, be it in single acts or in a collective acts. Be it as immigrants in the West, or as a people sitting in their own homes in their own countries, on their own land - Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan...

Robert Fisk (and am not too crazy about Fisk) said he calculated the number of foreign troops in the Muslim world and he came out with the conclusion that there are more Western/foreign "troops" in the Muslim world today than at any other time of history, and certainly more than at the times of the Crusades in the medieval ages. Yet it is the Muslims who are the ISTs of this world and not the Jewish or Christian crusaders and colonialists.

It then comes as no surprise that Muslims feel they are suffocating under the weight of these suffixes attached to them by the Other and it comes as no surprise that these suffixes are precisely meant to suffocate them.

Keep suffocating and attacking a whole people under the heading of fighting "Islamists" and you can be sure they will end up becoming one in self-defense.




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