In preparing blog posts for both today’s attack at the Catholic Church in Saint Etienne du Rouvary, France and the weekend suicide bombing outside a music festival in Reutlingen, Germany, I read the BBC’s account of both attacks and found something peculiar.
The BBC refers to ISIS as the “so-called Islamic state”.
This struck me as politically correct rubbish. Yet upon further examination, the term “so-called Islamic state” is something of a compromise by the Beeb after then British PM David Cameron led an effort last year to have the BBC stop using the term “Islamic State” altogether. In a BBC4 Radio interview, Cameron stated:
I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State because it’s not an Islamic state. What it is, is an appalling, barbarous regime … It’s a perversion of the religion of Islam and many Muslims listening to this programme will recoil every time they hear the words Islamic State.
Cameron can deny there’s such a thing as the Islamic State all he wants. He cannot pretend that vast amounts of territory in Iraq, Syria and Libya are under it’s control. Britain might not recognize ISIS’ claims on that territory, but it doesn’t change the facts on the ground. In fact, the amount of territory it controls is larger than Britain itself.
Cameron is correct to say that ISIS is an appalling, barbarous regime. So were the Nazis. I think it is safe to say that Churchill never hesitated to use the word Nazi when identifying the Third Reich. I hate to break it to Cameron but appalling, barbarous regimes control territory and ISIS is no exception. Neither he nor his successor Theresa May can wish this fact away. His statement is variation on President Obama’s assertion that “ISIS isn’t Islamic.”
What this is really about is bending over backwards not to offend the sensibilities of Britain’s large Muslim population. But in denying ISIS’ Islamic nature, both the British government and British Muslims demonstrate they are angrier at ISIS being called Islamic rather than they are at their murderous acts. Like it or not, there is a critical mass of Muslims in Britain who support ISIS and are prepared to travel to Iraq, Syria and Libya to take up the cause. Indeed, back in 2014, Britain’s Ministry of Defense reported there were more British Muslims fighting for ISIS than for the British military.
So while BBC declined the British government’s request to refrain from using the term “Islamic State”, the decision to qualify the term with the use of the phrase “so-called” is still a copout.
Above all else, how can we defeat an enemy if we’re worried about what to call it?