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'war on Islamists'
Fatimah
06/14/02 at 02:34:21
CNN host's 'war on Islamists' sparks thorny religious debate  
By Joyce Howard Price
THE WASHINGTON TIMES

    CNN's Lou Dobbs spent much of this week telling viewers of his show, "Moneyline," that the war on terror should be renamed the "war on Islamists."
    A poll conducted last night gave viewers the chance to select the name they preferred: 24 percent chose "war on terror"; 74 percent favored "war on Islamists."
    "We are fighting a war against extreme, radical Muslims, who are trying to destroy us, our society, our economy, our way of life. They're called Islamists not Muslims or Islamics, Islamists. They are the enemy," Mr. Dobbs said on his show Wednesday night.
    He returned to the topic Thursday night, when he said he was struggling to "remove what has become to me more of an obfuscatory phrase that is, the war on terror which is really about a condition and not about the source of that terror, which are these Islamists."
    Not surprisingly, Muslim groups were not pleased by his comments. But an aide to Mr. Dobbs said his statements generated more than a thousand calls from viewers, most of them favorable.
    CNN issued a statement late yesterday that defended Mr. Dobbs' activities and his use of the term, but said the views "do not represent the opinion of the network."
    "Lou Dobbs, like every journalist at CNN, understands the sensitivity and nuances of this subject. His comments on yesterday's broadcast were made in an effort to shed light on the issues and the importance of rhetoric.
    "Because Lou serves as a commentator and analyst, as well as anchor of his show, he may express his opinion on this subject and use the phrase 'war against Islamists,'" the cable network said.
    But it added CNN programming "will continue to refer to the Bush administration's policies and activities as the 'war on terror' and will identify those targeted in operations as 'terrorists.'"
    Ibrahim Hooper, a Muslim and spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said yesterday that Mr. Dobbs "has taken the definition of Islamist from bigots and is trying to apply it to the war on terror."
    "The bigots of the world say if you are an Islamist, you want to kill all who are non-Islamist. They define almost every Muslim activist as an Islamist," Mr. Hooper said.
    James Zogby, a Christian who is head of the Arab-American Institute, put it this way: "Lou Dobbs is a very sensible, intelligent man, who has made a mistake here. He seems to be following others who have been riding an anti-Islamic hobbyhorse."
    In a telephone interview, Mr. Dobbs defended his use of the term "Islamist" to define what he called "radical, fringe elements of Islamicism, not Islam."
    He cited several Muslim scholars, including author Salman Rushdie, who he said agree with his definition of Islamist.
    But Fawaz Gerges, an Arab-American professor and author who appeared on his show yesterday, did not agree. He said the conflict should be called a "war against radical or militant Islamists."
    Mr. Gerges said Islamists are Muslim fundamentalists, whose goal is to replace a secular political regime with a religious one. But he said "mainstream" Islamists want to do that peacefully.
    In contrast, he said, radical or militant Islamists "use violence as their main means" of effecting change. He said he believes September 11 "represented the end of militant Islamicism." He said he believes it's being replaced by a more moderate Islamicism


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