Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Short attention span funnies

Here's the AP, spreading multiculturalism and contextitude all across the world:

MIAMI -- Defense attorneys in the Jose Padilla terrorism support trial are going to great lengths to suggest to jurors that jihad is not necessarily Muslim holy war and that mujahedeen could just as easily be freedom fighters as terrorists.

Seems a bit like card-stacking to suggest that one side is "going to great lengths to suggest" that, um, the sun rises in the East. The AP's own holy writ (in an update that dates to the 2002 edition) describes "jihad" thus:

Arabic noun used to refer to the Islamic concept of the struggle to do good. In particular situations, that can include holy war.

But it's a lot to ask of the AP to read its own damn stylebook, let alone remember stuff from its freshman class in world religions.

The next point is even more fun, because if anyone has "gone to great lengths to suggest" that "mujahedeen could just as easily be freedom fighters as terrorists," the AP needs to stand up and take some credit:

Reagan said failure of the Soviet occupation was "due to the spirit and will of the majority of the Afghan people, and to the mujahedin, the freedom fighters, who continue to resist the Soviet invaders." He said the freedom fighters' "forces and their will remain intact." (12/26/82)

Hamid Navid of the Washington-based Islamic Unity of Afghanistan Mujahedeen (Freedom Fighters) told the demonstrators over a loudspeaker that Afghans "will fight until the last Russian is expelled from our country." (12/27/84)

Eashan Jan Areef, a Washington-based spokesman for one of the guerrilla groups, called Shevardnadze's comments "another Soviet trick. They want to weaken the ranks of the mujahedin (Moslem freedom fighters)." (1/7/87)

The point, of course, is that "mujahedeen" doesn't mean either "terrorists" or "freedom fighters." It means "people who j-h-d" (the mu- prefix does such to lots of verbs; it's one of the cool things about Arabic nounage). Whether those folks are "terrorists" depends less on whether they're blowing stuff up than on whose stuff they're blowing up. The "freedom fighter" bit is primarily the doing of the mendacious Republicans who ran the executive branch in those days, but the AP was a willing co-conspirator.

Sermon topic? Seems it'd be nice of "objective" journalism to point out that languages aren't scary. It's people who do awful things that are scary. Arabic doesn't have a secret stash of words for "snow" or "camel" or "religious death sentence." Those are the inventions of credulous people who ought to have better stuff to be scared of. They should be enlightened, then hit gently on the head with a stick.

And if the AP's that hard up for editors and writers who can find words in a dictionary that goes backwards and is arranged by consonantal roots, maybe it can hire some of the Arabic-speakers Your Pentagon seems to consider superfluous in these peaceable times.


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