It is one day after the killings in Borough Market, London, by ISIL extremists, and nine days into the holy month of Ramadan. Seven people are dead and 21 remain critically injured. Londoners will continue, as Londoners always do, about their daily tasks, with glancing echoes of half-remembered Churchillian rhetoric in mind. And rightly so.
We make a terrible mistake, and I see it in news media daily, of referring to the terrorists as Islamist or Muslimist extremists. Teresa May did it again today, when she decried the tolerant attitude of Britain towards Islamist extremism. Politicians have, of late, experimented with terms like Daesh and ISIL but we seem to have settled on “Islamist extremism,” for reasons unclear. This phrase only fuels intolerance towards our peace-loving Muslim neighbors, particularly from right-wing groups, ready like powder-kegs in a drought. The only justifiable case for it is as a way to pressure good Muslims to deal with their bad Muslims. We must, though, be disciplined in our word choices—truly, the devil is in the detail–because loose language causes our friends fear and pain, subjecting them to prejudice and injustice, day after day after day.
I’ve been trying hard to understand how extremist violence can fit at all with the beautifully interwoven spiritual and material realities of this sacred time of Ramadan. The solid, material fact is that it doesn’t, and we need to put distance between our ideas of ISIL terrorism and the fragrant, sacred beauty at the heart of Islam. “Ramadan Kareem” to all our peace-full and Spirit-full Muslim brothers and sisters at this holy time. Salaam aleikum all.