LONDON: Police in the UK are considering replacing terms such as “Islamist terrorism” to describe acts of terror with phrases such as “adherents of Osama bin Laden’s ideology,” The Times reported on Monday.
If implemented, officers would stop using phrases such as “jihadi” when describing attacks by those claiming Islam as a motive for terror because their usage was not helpful for community relations.
The head of counter-terrorism policing in the UK, Neil Basu, discussed the use of language to describe acts of terror during an online forum in June with attack survivors, relatives of victims and experts.
During the event it was pointed out that right-wing extremists such as Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in an attack in Norway in 2011, had often cited protecting Christianity as part of the motive for their actions, but were not described as “Christianist” or “crusaderist” by the police or the media.
A change in the use of language was requested by the National Association of Muslim Police, which said the use of words such as “Islamist” fostered negative connotations of the UK’s Muslim community and could lead to a rise in discrimination and Islamophobia.
Representatives from the organization, which numbers 3,000 members, argued that “jihad” should not be used because it means “struggle” or “effort” in Arabic and can refer to being a devout Muslim and carrying out good deeds.
Other alternatives to currently used phrases included “terrorists abusing religious motivations” or the Arabic word “irhabi,” which is not connected to religion but often used in the Middle East to describe terrorism.
The national coordinator of the UK’s de-radicalization program Prevent, Nik Adams, said counter terrorism officers had said, after receiving advice from Muslim officers, they were “concerned” that terminology currently in use could lead to “stigmatizing of innocent Muslims in the UK.”
However, Adams told The Times that any change in language used was not certain to be implemented, adding: “We have no plans to change the terminology we use at present but welcomed the debate and contributions.”