My friend Julie and I love to talk about words. You won’t believe how often our conversations drift to the latest and greatest word we’ve come across. One of her favorite words is prognostication. She loves the way it works the mouth. A few of my favorite words are home, sweetheart and baby. Notice how just saying those words creates a warm, fuzzy feeling? Now consider words like scheme, maniacal, and behead; warm and fuzzy become coldhearted and dreadful.
Words have power. It’s said that the pen is mightier than the sword. And that might is used on both sides of a battle. Churchill’s words kept the English on their feet during the constant bombing by the Nazis during World War 2. Martin Luther King Jr. changed the course of American history with his words. On the flip side, scriptural writings helped keep millions in slavery until 1865 in America. And the KKK used “The Good Book” as their shield to torment and kill thousands of African Americans after slavery ended.
The other day, I was washing dishes and listening to the radio. I was daydreaming a bit so I missed much of what was being broadcast but as I started to leave the kitchen, I heard “the west against Islam.” Since I hear so much terror talk in the media, I admit I’ve tuned most of it out. Yet, that four word, sentence fragment stuck in my head. I’m part of the west but I’m not against Islam. Then I thought of something my mother, would say; “watch your language” or “don’t talk like that.” Mothers say these things to teach us how to get along with each other. It’s a lesson in survival.
Now, more than ever, I believe we need to watch our language. With the advent of instant messages, instant feedback, instant spin, we need to be careful how we are using words to explain what is going on in the world. I love freedom of speech and a moratorium on the use of Islam, Moslem, or Islamic wouldn’t work but we need to be mindful of how these mighty words are being used. Over time these three words are becoming shields for thugs.
The truth is we don’t really know the true motivation of terrorists such as suicide bombers. My husband says, “They make tapes before they kill themselves in which they give the glory to Allah.” I say how do we know that they aren’t being coerced? How do we really know their motivation? The truth is we don’t. All we know is that suicide bombers murder people. They are murderers. Notice what an “ice water in the face” kind of word, murder is? Think about the difference between Islamic martyr and murdering thug. By trying to avoid using Islam, Moslem and Islamic to describe acts of a hideous nature, we might actually shake Islam free of these faith hijackers. We need to watch our language.
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