Islamic state as a concept does not stir as much controversy as does meaning of the term ‘Islamic state’, especially now a days. We often deliberately ignore or just circumvent significance a term carries, especially when it’s attached to an ideology or a creed. In recent past we have lost much, let us see how.

Any term can represent a positive or a negative connotation but in some critical and crucial cases, as in ideologies, attribution of meaning to a term plays a decisive role. Communism is such a term. Its proponents boost it as an unavoidable dialectical system which will unchain proletariats and create equal economic opportunities for all. Capitalists on the other side, call it a system which creates authoritative role for state to control people’s money and curb freedom. Both sides vied for attribution of such a meaning to ‘communism’ which they supported and we all know which side won. Western propaganda machine successfully convinced world that Communism is not a right alternative to status quo. Resultantly, the very term of ‘communism’ has lost the charm it once exhibited. Same is true for us. After fall of USSR, guns have turned towards Islam. Today many western social strategists are calling for tackling islamic radicalism (which is, for them, not different from ‘Islam’) on the same lines, ‘Communistic Aggression’ was tackled. Don Philpott and Robert T Jordan in their book ‘Is America Safe?’ tried to draw similar analogies between two different ideologies. What were those lines and what was that strategy? Answer is self-evident if we examine some of the terms we once fervently revered like ‘Jihad’, ‘Jihadi’, ‘Shariah’, ‘Caliph’ and likes are the terms which now popularly mean as ‘relentless act of non-muslims’ killing’, ‘religious fanatic and murderer’, ‘brutal code of life’ and ‘dictator or father of religious fanatics’ respectively. Go back in time, merely three decades, we will see US openly lauding Afghan ‘Jihad’ and ‘Jihadis’ because they served their purpose at that time. Now we can’t even mumble such words in our own countries because we fear international backlash against those misunderstood terminologies. We all know Zakir Naek’s ordeal after a misquoted definition of ‘terrorism’. It should be taught to world that negativity should not be posited towards our religion or terms associated with it. Fault is on our part too, as many of us solemnly (though wrongly) believe that term ‘Jew’ means ‘one who is Shrewd or an Exploiter’. We should all collectively denounce this smear campaign for two reasons. One, our religion does not permit this. It goes without saying that Islam promotes tolerance not bigotry and love not hatred. Second reason is sheer common sense. Hate begets hate and insult begets blasphemy. Two wrongs do not make one right and therefore slur from others can never justify slander from us.

Now ‘Islamic State’ was never meant to be like the one al-Baghdadi controls. We all know it is not an Islamic state so we should not call it one. For past few months not only western media but our own media continuously refers to ISIS - or Daaesh - as simply IS (Islamic State). Just google ‘Islamic state’ and you’ll have myriad of horrendous, hurting and intimidating results. For sake of argument one can readily point out that ISIS itself has used this term for their representation, so media will automatically buy it. But this argument is utterly fallacious and repugnant to international practices. When Yugoslavia disintegrated, one of its seceding states Serbia & Montenegro proclaimed themselves as a continuation of but the World didn’t recognize this claim and declared Yugoslavia as an extinct state. Taiwan to this date calls itself ‘China’ but World refuses to acknowledge the claim therefore media never refers to Taiwan as China. Ted Kaczynski, an American terrorist, proclaimed his organization as ‘Freedom club’ because he wanted to entice distressed American youth but media always named it as ‘Una-bomber’ because his organization (which turned out to be non-existent) was not a ‘Freedom Club’. Effect of carelessly attributing ISIS as Islamic state is three pronged.

This practice is gradually turning this term into another misnomer, which is being linked to a diametrically opposite and wrong connotation. If we can’t help ourselves calling it an Islamic state, can’t we at least append phrases like self-proclaimed or self-styled to it? If we fail to take down ISIS’s gimmick and West’s ‘terminological’ onslaught we will lose intrinsic ‘sacrosanctness’ of one more term. Do we want Islamic State to be a synonymous of ‘terrorist state’? Time to reclaim the term Islamic State which should be synonymous with peace, harmony, justice and mercy, is now otherwise it will be lost forever in smokescreen of misunderstanding and who knows ‘Islam’ could be next!

SAIMA RIASAT,

Lahore, December 9.