What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Prescriptions for descriptions

Via Mountainrunner here's a litte headache for me from the New York Times. P.W. ("PMC") Singer and Elina Noor argue against the use of terms like jihadi or jihadist. Now, I think that jihadist refers to someone struggling in the name of God (in whatever sense). It's not a bad description of SOME of the people fought by the coalition in Afghanistan (I'm staunchly focused on my analytical AO, you see). There are people claiming to fight in the name of God. We just don't happen to accept that their interpretation of what they have to do is correct. And we certainly don't think that God told them what they have to do. But if it's all perfectly clear (even they know it that we don't agree with them), then what's so wrong with the term?
Will Muslims see the use of these terms as reaffirming to them that jihadis are representatives of the only true form of jihad? I don't think so. I live in a country where if somebody is waving the tricoloured national flag, that person can nowadays almost immediately be identified as a nationalist. Yet neither does this stop me from being patriotic in my very different way, nor do I feel any temptation to identify with the flag-wavers' thinking just because they happen to be waving my country's flag. What they are doing is in fact a strong disincentive to me against waving the flag myself. Not that I was ever keen on doing that, but now I have a specific reason not to do it.
The other point I'd make is that jihadist is different from jihadi. "Jihadist" refers to the adherent of an ideology much more clearly than jihadi. So even if I can see jihadi as problematic in being re-ificative of the notion of jihad, jihadist is different.
Besides, many Marxists, socialists and communists weren't really Marxian, socialist or communist in any real sense. And yet reference has been made and is being made to them as such.
But then my needs regarding terminology are clearly different. I'm not interested in partaking in information operations myself, I just wish to consistently use some practical term to refer to those who blow themselves or others up (at least partly) for reasons to do with their own interpretation of their religion. Analysis needs to neutrally name its subject somehow. For that purpose Singer and Noor's alternative of hirabi or barbarian just doesn't do. Also, you can't just call these people "terrorists." Putting aside that there's all the debate going on about definitional issues, you sometimes have to differentiate between people who by their deeds may fit that category for all sorts of potentially very different reasons. So with the sub-categories issue the "jihadist" term comes back. If you have any clever suggestions about anything else that would be more useful instead of it, say it.

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