ISIL’s recent acts of violence and brutality have been universally condemned, however the language used to condemn their actions has been less than ideal.
When the mainstream media uses terms such as “Islamist Militants” or “Islamic State” to describe terrorist groups, they do not succeed in alienating terrorists. Instead, they alienate a diverse community comprising 1.6 billion people. As a consequence, the average citizen begins to conflate ISIL’s atrocious actions with the Islamic community at large. As a consequence, moderate Muslims are continually asked to prove to the rest of the world that they do not sympathise with terrorists or their cause.
The use of “Islam” as descriptive of terrorist organizations is tantamount to identity theft. The media is helping groups such as ISIL hijack the Islamic faith, and everything it represents. This would be the equivalent of the media referring to the few Australians that have joined ISIS as “Aussie Militants” or “Aussie Al-Qaeda”. The average Australian would feel as if their identity had been stolen and maligned.
A better response to terrorism would resemble what occurred after the siege of the Lindt Café in Sydney. The hashtag #I’llRideWithYou started trending on social media even as the siege was ongoing, reassuring Muslims who were scared to travel alone on public transport that they had the support of the community.
As the war on terrorism continues to be fought on all fronts, the flow of information needs to be monitored. Accurate language must be used to describe terrorist groups in order to facilitate global understanding and foster tolerance. In refusing to conflate terrorist organisations such as ISIL with the Islamic community, we take a step towards making Muslims in our community feel included and accepted. Hopefully, this means they are less likely to be radicalised by ISIL’s violent agenda.