Harris, Emma Jane; Bisset, Victoria; Weller, Paul (Dialogue Society, 2015)
To understand the causes of violent extremism, with a view ultimately to tackling them, this booklet argues that one must first consider the ways in which communication takes place about and around the subject. While knowledge of violent extremism and terror in the name of religion has increased exponentially over recent decades, the public and political language surrounding the issue has, generally speaking, failed to adapt accordingly. This publication aims to show how certain language frames can negatively contribute towards and reinforce major misunderstandings. The report first provides an overview of how relevant work in the field of cognitive linguistics and related approaches can aid and illuminate examples of problematic language use. It explains how terms such as ‘Islamism’ and ‘Islamist’ should not be used without first considering their etymological roots, and that the use of such terms can convey and conflate concepts distinct from their intended meaning. The issue of demands for Muslims to denounce acts of terror is then addressed and shown to be connected to the misuse of linguistic frames and terms which too easily tend in the direction of conflating Islam and Islam and which "other" Muslims, calling into question their civic loyalty and create stereotypes of "good Muslims" as "moderate Muslims". Finally, the report offers to politicians, policy makers and media organisations some recommended alternatives to currently used linguistic frameworks that are often used in discussing violent extremism, and commends some alternative narratives and approaches that can contribute to bringing about positive change in relation to this phenomenon.
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