UK Muslim police group campaigns to drop 'jihadi' terminology to enhance community relations

UK Muslim police group campaigns to drop 'jihadi' terminology to enhance community relations
A Muslim group is urging for British police to change the way it describes extremism.
3 min read
21 July, 2020
It is unlikely the terminology will change [Getty]
British police may be considering dropping the terms “Islamist terror” and “jihadi” from their vocabulary in an attempt to foster better community links with Muslims, as the terms “don’t help community relations”.

According to a report by The Times, alternative suggestions move away from calling crimes Muslim-specific, and instead opt for “faith-claimed terrorism” and “terrorists abusing religious motivations”.

“Adherents to Osama bin Laden’s ideology” has also been circulated.

This decision comes after an online conference featuring members of the National Association of Muslim Police and Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, head of counter-terrorism policing, discussed the possibility that the term fuelled detrimental stereotypes against Britain’s Muslim population.

The 3,000-member organisation advocated for a “change in culture by moving away from using terms which have a direct link to Islam and Jihad. These…do not help community relations and public confidence,” it said.

The police told the publication that changes to the phrases used by police were being considered but were not certain.

The group suggested the Arabic word "irhabi" (terrorist) be used instead of "jihadi".

It said the word was widely used in the Middle East to describe those who adopt extremist views.

In Islam, the word “jihad” denotes the inner struggle of remaining faithful, and ascribing such a word to describe those who commit violence in the name of the religion is therefore widely inaccurate.

Chief Superintendent Nik Adams, coordinator of the de-radicalisation unit, Prevent, said the meeting had been designed to look at the evidence.

He told The Times: “We have no plans to change the terminology we use at present but welcomed the debate and contributions.

“It's vital we get our terminology right to define the threat accurately and succinctly but also to avoid alienating communities crucial to our efforts.”

Prevent 'reinforces stereotypes'

The debate comes as a new study on the UK government’s counter-terrorism strategy found that it reinforced negative stereotypes about Muslims and Islam.

The study, published last week by SOAS University of London, in conjunction with universities of Durham, Coventry and Lancaster, said students who supported Prevent were nearly three times more likely to see Islam as intolerant to non-Muslims, compared to those who believed Prevent was damaging university life.

Forty-three percent of the 2,000 students surveyed thought that Islam was a religion that discriminated against women.

"It appears that Prevent has become strongly associated with the presumed dangers of radical Islam and with a perception that Muslims are dogmatic, intolerant and prone to violence," Mathew Guest, one of the report's authors, wrote in an op-ed for Open Democracy.

"Our research suggests that universities could do much more to tackle the roots of Islamophobia and ensure that they are not complicit in maintaining racism," Guest said.

"As centres of critical thinking, universities have the capacity and the moral obligation to take a lead in addressing our latest 'acceptable' prejudice."

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