Politico Could Not Have Gotten This ‘Jihadist’ Explanation More Wrong
So it seems that Robert Gibbs today inelegantly tried to distinguish between al-Qaeda and the Taliban — sigh, that shouldn’t have been too difficult — and in the process of that explanation, used the word “jihadist,” a term that the Obama administration strenuously avoids. Carol E. Lee at Politico tries to explain:
Jihadist is seen as a derogatory term for mujahid, which is Arabic for freedom fighter. A search through transcripts going back to January shows the word or any version of it had not previously been uttered from the Obama White House podium.
Close! And by “close,” I mean “the exact opposite of the actual explanation”! Far from being a derogation, “jihadist” is an honorific to many Muslims, and that’s precisely why the Obama administration doesn’t use the word.
How do I know that? Because John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, explained it that way in a big August speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. From the text of Brennan’s August 6 remarks:
Nor does President Obama see this challenge as a fight against “jihadists.” Describing terrorists in this way—using a legitimate term, “jihad,” meaning to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal—risks giving these murderers the religious legitimacy they desperately seek but in no way deserve. Worse, it risks reinforcing the idea that the United States is somehow at war with Islam itself. And this is why President Obama has confronted this perception directly and forcefully in his speeches to Muslim audiences, declaring that America is not and never will be at war with Islam.
Poke fun at the press secretary, I guess (“It’s an interesting word choice…”), but at least, for the joke’s sake, try to get the premise right!