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Pull That Thread Everything is Connected If You Stretch It Long Enough

The Frailty of the Adjective ‘Islamist’

Posted on September 15, 2013

Happy to. The use of the word 'Islamist' as an adjective for 'leader*' forces a false causality between excessive force and 'Islamist' leaders. This false causality implies a false solution: if we get rid of the Islamists, we get rid of excessive force. If the 'Islam-ness' of a leader was a relevant detail for explaining the excessive use of tear gas, then there would be almost no cases of such misuse in countries where there is non-Islamic leadership. However, we know this is a tactic governments worldwide have used and continue to use, for no other reason than to deny people their right to peaceful protest.

If aggression against dissent could arguably be made as a quality of Islamic leaders, then it can also arguably be made for Christian leaders. For Secular leaders. For white leaders and black leaders.  For leaders who are male.  In fact, there's probably more empirical evidence linking 'male leaders' to the cause of aggressive use of chemicals against protesters than 'Islamic leaders' and yet, would the writer choose 'male' as an adjective in this tweet, the writer would be soundly mocked and accused of being 'ridiculous' or, even worse, a feminist.

So why wasn't 'Turkey's leaders' enough? Or even a clearly subjective word like 'arrogant'? What's the point?

Once the mind forms the question, it immediately begins to seek possible scenarios for answers.

Is it because the writer has only lived in Turkey, and only under the current government (which makes the writer, what, about 12?) and is ignorant of events outside of Turkey? Does the writer really believe that, if only the leadership wasn't Islamic, Turkish people could confidently protest Government actions and policies without fear of an 'aggressive' Government response? That whatever the ambitions, agendas, or individual personality flaws a non-Islamic government might bring to the party, the aggressive use of tear gas could never figure into it? And what does this say about the writer, then?

Or does the writer know full well that emphasizing 'Islamic' with 'leaders' offers absolutely no genuine solution, but the writer simply has a bias against Islamists? Or does the writer have a political agenda that necessitates othering any and all Islamists who might run for office —regardless of who they are as individuals or what solutions they may bring to the table—much like a blanket statement of 'male' would hint at a feminist political agenda? And what does that say about the writer, then?

Is the writer imagining that if the leaders weren't 'Islamic' there would be no dissent? Or that dissenters wouldn't be treated like insects with chemicals (but, rather, like punching bags to beat or bodies to disappear like the previous, non-Islamic regime? Which would be what? Better?) Exactly what type of 'adjective' for leadership that encompasses a 'group' is going to usher in this new world where citizens who rise up in arms aren't met with whatever type of retaliation it takes to stop them? I can't think of one, except maybe: fictional.


If top leadership remained exactly as they are in all respects but "poof!" became non-Islamics, how much would change beyond the slogans and justifications? Strategies and tactics? 

For if one were only to check the twitter archives (and history will tell)  the writer might see that in Egypt, for example, few things have fundamentally changed except the adjectives preceding 'leadership': from 'Islamist leadership' to 'Military leadership' if we're going to follow the 'group identification' model, and from 'democratically elected' to 'military coup' if we're going to follow the facts. The chemicals, the beatings, the torture, the death sentences are all there. Just the actors have changed.

Ah, but perhaps the writer believes that all of Egypt's problems would disappear if only the 'Islamist' citizens would stop their confounding protests and accept the situation as it is! But then...what is the point of the writer's tweet, if it's not to defend a people's right...to protest?

Or perhaps the writer is just sloppy. Or didn't think. But it's been my experience that, when it comes to the use of "Islamist", its irrelevant use as an adjective is rarely an accident and never a typo.

So perhaps the writer means exactly what the writer says.

In this way, the choice of adjectives often says more about the writer behind them than the noun they precede.


 *The writer actually used the phrase 'Islamist Rulers', not 'Islamist Leaders'. The use of the noun 'ruler' speaks to the writer's 'opinion' of current leadership—that they 'act' like 'rulers' as opposed to 'leaders' (ie 'elected officials') even though the fact is they were elected—consistently. The intent is clear, defensible, and logical with the rest of the statement. I changed it to 'leader' because using  'ruler' rather than the more accurate 'leader' would be too distracting to the point regarding the use of 'Islamist', which I found more distressing, destructive and insidious.

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