Some of the terminology regarding Muslim-Western relations has been widely misused or misunderstood, confusing key issues and clouding constructive opportunities. In an attempt to improve ongoing communication, we have developed the following Terminology in Muslim-Western Relations guide. A downloadable PDF version is also available.
Terminology Guide
Term: Islamo-facism
Intended Meaning: An authoritarian or oppressive ideology or system of government based on a totalitarian interpretation of Islam
Why a Problem: The linking of Islam and fascism is highly offensive and provocative to the vast majority of Muslims, who love and respect their religion, and do not associate Islam with totalitarianism; it is an oxymoron
Impact: Most Muslims naturally feel insulted, even angry, on hearing expressions which denigrate their religion; the term helps terrorists as it reinforces the idea that the West associates Islam with their most reviled ideologies
Alternatives:
  • Religious Totalitarianism by group X
Additional Distinctions
Term:Muslim (noun/adj.)Islamic (adj.)
Definition:Denotes an adherent of Islam or a characteristic of its adherents (descriptive, adj. comparable to "Jewish")Denotes the religion or its institutions (prescriptive, comparable to "Judaic")
Example:A Muslim country is one where the majority of citizens follow the religion of Islam An Islamic country is one whose political system is based on Islamic law
Why Important: Avoids negative events, acts or ideas being attributed to the religion of Islam itself (rather than its followers)
Term:HeadscarfVeil
Definition:Worn by many Muslim women to cover their hair in public; usually accompanied by non- revealing clothes Worn by a small minority of Muslim women to cover face; usually accompanied by non-revealing clothes
Referred to as:Hijab Niqab
Why Important: Important "Veil" conjures up "barrier" and has a negative impact on bridge-building efforts
Note: neither garment necessarily says anything about one's political viewpoints