Friday, August 30, 2013

Politicians and religious symbols

Politicians who want to ban religious symbols run the danger of burning their fingers. That is what the premier of Quebec, Pauline Marois, is discovering. Quebec’s proposed ban on the wearing of religious symbols has drawn extensive criticism from across the country, even though it enjoys widespread support at home.

While no bill has been tabled yet, this proposed crackdown on personal displays of religiosity has already sparked intense debate from politician,s both inside and outside the province, as well as political pundits, legal experts, and the minority groups in Quebec who may be deprived of their most cherished symbols.

The legislation being considered would see the Quebec government outlaw public employees from wearing hijabs, turbans, kippas, and other religious clothing and symbols, even crucifixes, in schools, hospitals and other government buildings in the province. This proposal is part of a "Charter of Quebec Values."

According to some reports, these measures would apply to all those who are paid from the public purse: civil servants, lawyers, police officers, teachers, and even doctor and nurses. These measures are designed by the minority Parti Québécois government to underscore Quebec’s secular nature.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois

A Forum Research poll suggests that this proposal enjoys strong support in the province and the government may have the political support needed to pass the legislation into law. In Quebec, 58% of those polled support the proposed charter. Two out of three respondents believe that “too many accommodations” are made for religious groups in Quebec.

A majority of French-speakers said they backed the ban, while a majority of anglophones and allophones (those whose mother tongue is neither French nor English) were strongly opposed to the proposal.

In the rest of the country, 42% of Canadians approve, while 47% disapproved. Support was highest among Conservative supporters, with nearly 50% in favor, while 39% of New Democrats and only 32% of Liberals said they approve. In Ontario, where support was the strongest, as many as four in 10 voiced approval.

After initially remaining silent on this controversial issue, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has now waded into the debate with a carefully-crafted promise to protect minority rights.

With a provincial election likely less than one year away, Marois’ party appears to be on a solid footing with voters in Quebec. This conclusion was confirmed by the leader of the third-party Coalition Avenir Québec, François Legault, who said that his caucus would support the government’s plan, but he would limit the ban to those in occupations that involve public authority, such as judges and police. That way, it would not affect any rank-and-file government employees.

The Liberals in Quebec have already stated their opposition. While at the federal level, Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal party of Canad lambasted the proposed charter of values by contrasting it with Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech. Trudeau suggested that Quebec would deprive some minorities there of their basic human rights. He later clarified that he was not implying that the Quebec government was practicing segregation. Yet he did not withdraw his earlier remarks, especially about denying human rights.

The popular support that this proposal enjoys in Quebec has encouraged Marois. With an election looming next year, this measure could well become a major issue, if the legislature either rejects it or amends it too much. Marois views the charter of values along the lines of the province’s language laws, which were divisive at first but are now considered essential to the survival of the French language.

This proposal, in my opinion, cannot be understood apart from the position of the French in Quebec, who regard themselves as a true nation that wants to protect its culture and language. Unlike the rest of Canada, which has been shaped throughout its history by immigration and is now thoroughly multicultural, Quebec still perceives itself as predominantly monocultural, and it would like to remain that way.

"Quebec is always in mortal fear for its soul," according to Lorne Bozinoff, the president of Forum Research. This fear is something most Canadians do not understand, yet it is basic to the proposed legislation. Dare I suggest that this fear makes Quebec willing to expel immigrants, or at least not attract new one, especially if they are not French-speakers? Maybe Trudeau's remarks are justified.

The new charter of values, like the language legislation, would therefore help to protect the French fact in the province. In addition, it must be noted that Quebec is much more secularized than any other Canadian province. Hence, the widespread support for this proposal in Quebec, especially among Francophones.

Some members of minority groups that would be deprived of their religious symbols have already stated that, if forced to choose between those symbols and remaining in the province, they would be prepared to leave. They would decide for their religion over their jobs.

Dr. Sanjeet Singh Saluja, an emergency room physician at the McGill University Health Centre, who wears a turban as part of his Sikh faith, says that the proposed legislation would drive people from the Sikh, Jewish and Muslim communities away from the province; he himself is considering leaving. 

Such reactions play right into the hands of the Marois government. Although only a few people in Quebec would say so publicly, many might respond with a loud, "Good riddance!"

The issue of banning religious symbols is not exclusive to Quebec. In France is issue boiled over when the government passed a law in 2004 banning the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols in French public primary and secondary schools. Many consider this law as targeting especially the wearing of headscarves by Muslim women.

In many jurisdictions in North America, the right of Muslim women to wear a hijab when they apply for a passport or drivers licence is controversial. And in many countries, people have questioned the right of Sikh men to wear a kirpan, or ceremonial knife, in public, even though that is a requirement of the Sikh faith. The men mus also wear a turban, but this has been less contoversial.

Many years ago, when I worked  briefly as a chaplain in a Toronto hospital, I was told not to wear a cross while I was on duty. I could understand the logic involved, but I thought this rule was silly. The Quebec ban goes much further. It would make it illegal for anyone to wear a cross or other religious symbol as part of their public duties.

My sympathies clearly lie with those who will suffer as a result of the ban. The proposal is bad not only for minority groups but ultimately also for everyone in Quebec who respects basic human rights and would not like their province to be portrayed as a bully. Unfortunately, that may yet happen.

Marois' fingers may yet be burned in the eyes of the world. But the premier probably doesn't care, as long as the majority of Québécois support her. The rest of the world, of course, does not vote in provincial elections in Quebec.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Stop the violence in Egypt!

The violence in Egypt seems to grow by the day. In the past week more than 1200 people have been killed. Who is responsible for all this violence? And when will it ever end?

Both the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and those who continue to support ousted President Mohamed Morsi, as well as the military and those who support General Abd El-Fattah El-Sisi, the de facto leader of the coup, have to share responsibility and blame for this unending violence.

All the media reports present one-sided views of what is happening in this huge country of 85 million people. No one has the overall picture, and thus it is difficult to determine who should get the bulk of the blame.

The reasons why Egyptians are killing each other as well as burning churches and government buildings are much more complex than most people realize. They are born of a fragmentation of the Egyptian population into too many groups that dismiss other Egyptians as enemies. There is now a total disregard for human life, as well as a seeming desire to destroy the whole country.

Clashes have taken place not only in Cairo and Alexandria but throughout the rest of the country as well, as the map shows.

Through the use of violence, the MB has demonstrated its Islamist credentials during the past few weeks. If there were any lingering doubts, they have all been removed. The MS is truly an Islamist organization. Some people think they never would have relinquished power. Hence the anger of MB at Morsi's ouster.

Morsi’s performance as president was a disaster. He had won only about a quarter of the eligible vote. Yet soon he proceeded to flout all democratic norms. His government packed a constitutional committee with Islamists, rushing through electoral and other laws without due consent.

The Morsi government let sectarian hatred against Muslim minorities and the country's 8m or so Christians rise unchecked. They allowed the destruction of numerous churches and other Christian buildings.

In addition, the sheer incompetence its stewardship of the economy destroyed whatever standing Morsi may have had among ordinary Egyptians. More than 20m people, which is about half the adult population, is said to have signed a petition for a referendum on his presidency.

When Morsi was removed from office on July 31 and imprisoned, the MB demanded his reinstatement. They were unwilling to compromise in any way. That was foolish, but that demand may yet offer a way out of the conundrum and put an end to the violence as I shall argue later.

Compare the two maps and notice the overlap

The military have also used violence, but that does not make them Islamists. Since the ouster of Morsi, they have used deadly force against their own people. This was a coup that was not only wrong but was also a terrible mistake since Morsi and the MB would probably not have been reelected in a future election. If they would have refused to hold elections, the people would protest strenuously.

The use of violence by the military was disastrous. It prompted the violent reaction of the MB, which not only executed police and army personnel but also destroyed many churches, primarily Coptic.

Thankfully, the Copts did not respond in kind by burning mosques, as has happened in Nigeria, but they feel very much threatened by the MB and the sectarian violence that is directed especially against Christians.

The military have lost much of the good will and support of ordinary Egyptians through this bloodshed. As a result of the bloodshed, the MB have only added to their reputation for incompetence and abuse of power.

But the worst mistake of the military was to ignore the yearning of ordinary people for dignity. The people no doubt wanted to get rid of the apparatus of a police state, but they also desired better lives, decent jobs and certain basic freedoms. That was why Mubarak was deposed two years ago. The old, ailing dictator will never regain power, even though he has just been released from prison. But he will be put on trial again.

A church torched by the Muslim Brotherhood

The military will have to deal with the needs of the ordinary people but they also have with the Islamists who make up about 30% or so of the population. They want to ban the MB, but that will drive them even further underground than they were before. That would be foolish and counter-productive. 

They must find a way to co-exist with the MB. To ban them would play into the hands of Egyptian jihadists, as well as those elsewhere. It would also provide fertile ground for the further growth of al-Qaeda. Jihadists in northern Africa have already vowed to support their Islamist brothers in Egypt.

If the military want a stable Egypt, they should draw back from the brink and return to their barracks. After that they must start negotiations with the MB, as odious as that might seem to them as well as many ordinary Egyptians. The MB remains a force to reckoned with in Egypt simply because of the large support they still enjoy among the populace.

For the MB, it will also be difficult to take part in negotiations, given their treatment at the hands of the army. The negotiators must set a timetable for parliamentary and presidential elections. In spite of their propensity for violence, Islamists too must be included when a new constitution is hammered out.

The animosity on both sides can be overcome. Egyptians eagerly seek an end to the bloodshed. Continuing violence will only drive the military and the MB even further apart.

I would suggest that Morsi too must be given a place at the table, even if he is not restored to the presidency. The Egyptian people would never accept that, but the MB might make that a condition for their participation.

The outside world must also respond to this bloody crisis, and not continue to bury its collective head in the sand. The US especially should stop the pretense that this coup was not a coup. It should, therefore, withhold further military aid until a civilian government has been elected and installed. In addition, in spite of their hatred of Islamism, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries should stop bankrolling the Egyptian military.

It has often been observed that Egypt has never had a proper democracy. Many of its people are illiterate and live in poverty. Yet they have shown their willingness to fight, and even die if necessary, for a government that will help solve their problems. They turned out en masse to oust Mubarak and and later Morsi, and they will do so again if the need arises. But the violence that is being perpetrated by all sides must stop.

Egypt must not be allowed to go down the same road to civil war, as is Syria right now. The massacre, when about 900 people, many of them children, died as result of a chemical attack allegedly orchestrated by the Assad regime. Let us pray that that does not happen in Egypt. In fact, violence in both countries must stop!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Connecting the dots: Gays, Snowden, the Olympics, pipelines, trains, politicians, and faith

News stories sometimes seem to be isolated and not connected with other events. Many are ephemeral, they do not last long. But there are times when some stories have a longer shelf life. Then, especially, it is important to connect the dots. We need to establish the connections between these stories and others for the impact they can have.

In the last few weeks I have come across a number of stories that begged me to connect the dots. At first sight the connections may not be obvious, and then again it may quickly be very clear to you, as it was to me. I grant that as a Canadian I perhaps have a unique platform from which to view the world and connect these dots. All these stories affect me, even if not all of them will affect you. You may connect the dots differently.

I want to begin with the recently passed legislation in Russia banning discussion of homosexuality. One can be sent to prison for raising the issue of gay rights. This law also applies to all visitors to Russia, including those who will attend the Olympics in February.

Russia was also in the news for granting temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, who was cooped up for many weeks in the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow. The US immediately condemned Russia for this action. Canada soon followed suit in condemning Russia. Some voices have already suggested a boycott of the Sochi Olympics and proposed that the games be moved to Vancouver.

A boycott does not seem very likely at the moment, but the International Olympic Committee is waiting for more clarifications from the Russian government on the anti-gay law, according to IOC President Jacques Rogge.

Other proposals include wearing rainbow pins or only having a boycott of hockey. The latter would hit hockey-mad Russia especially. but it would not affect the athletes as much, since they are professionals who do not need the Olympic stage the same way that other athletes would.

John Baird, Canada's Minister for Foreign Affairs

Almost in the same breath as the Snowden incident, Canada condemned Russia's anti-gay legislation. The condemnation of Russia for accepting Snowden was hardly a surprise, since the Harper government has for many years done everything it could to curry favor with the Americans. The other condemnation, however, was unexpected.

The reason for the first condemnation is not ideological, since the Harper Conservatives are far removed from the Obama Democrats. But Canada does need US regulatory approval for the Keystone XL pipeline, a line connecting Canadian oil fields to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. Environmentalists on both sides of the border are very much opposed to this pipeline and hope that this proposal is rejected.

President Obama recently stated that this pipeline would not create as many jobs as proponents suggest. He will probably make a decision on Keystone before the end of this year. No doubt, he will be criticized very severely no matter which way he decides.

Prime Minister Harper immediately contradicted Obama. Canada needs this pipeline, claims Harper, who also represents a Calgary, Alberta, seat in Parliament. Oil is the lifeline of that province. This is one reason why the Conservatives have whittled away at regulatory controls, much to the ire of environmentalists.

Just in case the Keystone project does not transpire, several alternatives have been proposed: the Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat, BC, from where Alberta oil can be shipped to Asia. Another alternative is reversing an existing gas pipeline. and adding some new lines, to carry oil to the east coast of Canada.

Lac-Mégantic explosion

The tragic accident in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, where a runaway train exploded and destroyed the central part of the town, and 47 people died, has reinforced the need for an east-west pipeline, which is considered safer than a train and emits less greenhouse gases, but even pipelines have experienced massive leaks.

The American company that was carrying the oil from North Dakota has now declared bankruptcy, claiming that insurance will only cover a small fraction of the total cleanup and restoration costs. Canadian taxpayers are on the hook for the balance.

Canada's condemnation of Russia's anti-gay legislation was a surprise. John Baird, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, was the spokesperson for the government on this issue. He described the new anti-gay law as “mean-spirited and hateful.”

But Baird is the most outspoken advocate in cabinet for gay rights, and thus it should not have been entirely surprising. He was one of only a handful of Conservatives who supported Bill C-279, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

The base of the Conservative party was upset by Baird's remarks. REAL Women of Canada, a right-wing women’s group publicly denounced him as out of step with conservative grassroots. The public in Canada, however, has widely accepted gay rights. The Conservatives are well aware of this.

Harper and his wife at mass honoring Lac-Mégantic victims

Harper later defended Baird, and stressed the importance of human rights. Yet in the past Harper has been more ambivalent about gay rights. Whether out of fear of alienating the party's base or because of personal convictions is not clear. Harper is an astute politician who, for example, has forbidden his caucus from raising the abortion issue publicly, even though he personally may be opposed to abortion. But that too is not clear.

My difficulty with Harper is that his personal faith is not evident in the policies that he proposes. Arguably, he is the country's most openly religious leader in decades. He is a committed, evangelical Christian, yet he keeps his faith private. In the Canadian context, he is damned if he does talk about his beliefs and damned if he does not.

Canadians typically do not take well to expressions of evangelical Christian beliefs, largely because they don't understand them. They are more secularized than Americans, and thus Canadian politicians do not talk about their faith very much. As a whole, Canadians have long been squeamish about mixing religion and politics. Harper's reluctance let faith play a role is therefore understandable.

You see, perhaps, how all these news stories are interconnected. I have tried to connect the dots. There are even more dots that I could connect, but these prove my point. As Descartes often wrote in his conclusions: QED (that which was to be demonstrated).

I could have said more about some of these news items.I could have selected even more stories. I hope this exercise has been worthwhile. I enjoyed it very much. I hope that you did too.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How two Muslim scholars view Jesus

This week I take a short break from politics and turn to a very crucial question: Who is Jesus?

A very wise man once said that of the making books there is no end. Unfortunately, there is not enough time to read even a tiny selection of all the books that appear in one's chosen field. Book reviews are, therefore, helpful in this regard.

I very much enjoy reading them. They allow me not only to keep up with new books as they appear but also to evaluate and to decide whether it is worthwhile reading them and perhaps buying them. Occasionally, I review some books in this blog. That is what I have decided to do this week with two recently published books that deal with Jesus. Both are written by Muslims, which is highly unusual.

The first is by Reza Aslan, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Random House). And the second is by Mona Siddiqui, Christians, Muslims and Jesus (Yale University Press). Both books provide an interesting perspective on the person who, in the opinion of many Christians, is the most important figure in the history of the world.

While I have not read these books myself yet, these reviews permit me to make a few comments about their views of Jesus. While neither author would agree with the claim by Christians about his cosmic importance, both thought that he was important enough to write a book about. Indeed, both books have enjoyed many good reviews, although Aslan's book has also received more than a few negative ones.

Aslan is an Iranian-American who at age 15 became an evangelical Christian, but he later reverted to Islam. At an early age he thus has a first-hand knowledge of Christianity. He later got a degree in New Testament studies. He is famous especially for his 2005 book No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (Random House). In that book he portrays the prophet Muhammad as an egalitarian social reformer.

In Zealot Aslan describes the life of Jesus in terms of his earthly existence, not his ultimate meaning, through focusing on the context in which he lived. As the title suggests, Jesus was a zealot for God and the Temple, but he was not a member of the Zealot Party, which did not arise until over 30 years after Jesus' death. Jesus, like many other zealots of his time, was killed for his zealotry. However, Jesus' resurrection is dismissed as an event of faith and not an historical fact.

This book went viral after a terrible interview on Fox in which the interviewer tore into Aslan. No doubt this helped promote sales. Although the book was written at the popular level, his scholarship is not the issue, but his conclusions, especially regarding Jesus as a zealot, are questionable.

The problem is that Jesus is more than just a man. He is also God, which is anathema to Muslims. That is why it is difficult, if not impossible, for Muslims to properly assess the person and work of Jesus. Christians have sometimes been unable to understand Jesus, and thus arrived at similarly flawed conclusions. How much more difficult is it for Muslims to fully comprehend that Jesus is both fully man and fully God.

The Church Fathers struggled with the two natures of Christ for many centuries. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 clarified the language of the hypostatic union. The Western churches have all accepted this, but it left the Eastern churches divided, since some of them could not accept this formulation. Yet everyone agrees that Christ is truly fully God and fully man.

Another theological problem is evident in Mona Siddiqui's book. She is Professor of Islamic and Inter-religious studies at Edinburgh University’s School of Divinity. Her book is rigorously academic and at the same time very personal. Unlike Aslan, however, she does not limit the personal only to the introduction.

For Siddiqui, Jesus is both a bridge and a barrier between Muslims and Christians. Although he is referred to in 93 verses of the Qur'an and praised as one of the divinely elected prophets who is the “word” and “spirit” of God, Muslims do not accept him as the “son of God.” For them that title challenges the sublime oneness of God, his utter divine unity and transcendence. In simple language, God cannot have a son.

She writes in a compelling, personal way and sets out some of her own dilemmas. Although she is a Muslim, she is fascinated by Christianity. But she remains committed to an Islamic belief in a God who is entirely transcendent and so could not have taken human form, as Jesus did according to Christians.

Siddiqui is at her finest when she deals with Christian and Muslim theological debates from the early Middle Ages to the present day, as well as Muslim theologians, who argue against the Trinity, and medieval Christian writers, who ponder whether Muslims are pagans or heretics.

With a very deep personal commitment to her own faith, she focuses directly on the most difficult theological issues that divide the two religions. Siddiqui skilfully connects Christian doctrinal arguments and the thinking of Islamic philosophers, theologians and Sufi poets in order to dismantle past misconceptions that were based on prejudice and ignorance. She thus prepares the way for a more appreciative mutual understanding between these two very different faith communities that nevertheless share more than they realize, and much less might be willing to acknowledge.

It is precisely such theological dialogue that Siddiqui wishes to encourage. She does this with admirable empathy as well as a detailed knowledge of Islamic and Christian theological texts. In this way, she offers an exemplary model of how courageously creative dialogues might be constructed and a new model of interfaith relations advanced.

Both Aslan and Siddiqui must be commended for their attempt as Muslims to portray Jesus. Christians may not agree with everything they say about him, yet Aslan and Siddiqui -- each in their own way and with more or less greater success -- are helping to build bridges between the two faiths. The world perhaps can use more books about Jesus authored by Muslims.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Islamism: the politicization of Islam

Islamism is constantly in the news today. With the rise of several Islamist parties in the aftermath of the Arab spring, this should not surprise anyone. They are now in power in many countries after many decades in opposition. Whenever Arab countries have held free elections, they have often captured majorities, but after the Arab spring they have done much better.

Yet Egypt just evicted President Muhammad Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood. And in Syria many people, both there and elsewhere, are so afraid Islamists will take over the country if President Bashar al-Assad is forced from power that they continue to support his murderous regime.

Islamists have not helped their own cause. They discovered that governing is harder than being in opposition. In several countries they have demonstrated incompetence and fallen victim to same corruption that plagued former regimes.

What is Islamism? you may well ask. Unfortunately, the term is hard to define. The best of the definitions that I have read is (slightly adapted): Islamism is a movement of Muslims who draw upon the belief, symbols, and language of Islam to inspire, shape, and animate political activity. This movement may contain moderate, tolerant, peaceful activists, and/or those who preach intolerance and espouse violence.

This definition covers the gamut: from moderate Islamists who accept and work within the democratic process, as in Tunisia, Pakistan, Egypt and Turkey, to groups that do participate in the democratic process but also use violence, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, to radical Islamists who reject democracy entirely, such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Further distinctions can be made: Wahhabism and Salafism, although not identical, reject Western influences and endorse a rather puritan interpretation of Islam. In Nigeria, Boko Haram, as the name indicates, is noted especially for its rejection of Western education, but it also rejects much more that comes from the West. All these groups can be labelled "radical Islamists."

Islamism is thus extremely diverse and should not be equated with terrorism, although several groups do have links with terrorists. The term is of recent vintage, dating back only three decades or so, and is commonly used today instead of "Islamic fundamentalism."

Because of the association of Islamism with terrorism, I would prefer to reserve the term Islamism for those who do use violence, rather than tarring all Islamists with the same broad brush.

Instead, let us call those who are willing to work within a democratic context "Islamic." That way we can avoid their association with terrorism, and governments should not have to fear working together with them. Their people want democracy and they abhor terrorism.

Those who advocate terrorism often try to use the democratic process in order to gain power. "One person, on vote, one time," is a cynical way of describing their position. These are the people we must especially fear, not those who do not pose a real threat. All Islamists need democracy to gain recognition and power, even if they later disown it.

Americans, in particular, tend to use a broad brush when describing people and groups they dislike. Thus even mild socialists become communists from their point of view. They often do the same with Muslims.

Islamists are Muslisms, but not all Muslims are Islamists. Islamism posits a political role for Islam. This is true of every form of Islamism, even those who endorse democracy and reject violence.

While some question a political role for Islam, by its very nature Islam is political. Islam is a way of life, which means that every aspect of the lives of Muslims is touched by their faith, including politics. Muslims do not compartmentalize life the way many Westerners do and thus politics cannot be separated from the rest of life.

This does not mean, however, that faith has become politicized. Those Muslims who want to introduce sharia, or reintroduce it as happened in Nigeria, are not necessarily politicizing their faith any more than some Christians do when they fight abortion by appealing to biblical principles. Additionally it should be mentioned, a few Christians even want the state to legislate according to Old Testament laws, but that does not mean that they are therefore politicizing their faith.

To connect politics and faith does not mean that faith is politicized. Muslims who connect the two, and those Christians who do the same, are not politicizing their faith, but simply expressing their faith also in the area of politics, which is only proper.

The politicization of faith occurs when politics dominates and certain groups, like those who want to eliminate Israel or evict Americans from Afghanistan, want to use violence in order to achieve this political goals. The introduction of sharia does not constitute polarization unless it is accompanied by violence. Violence is the key. That is what must be rejected, not the close connection of faith and politics.

Westerners may not like everything that even democratically elected Islamists do. Examples such as Turkey spring to mind. Since the Arab spring many more such democratically oriented regimes have come to power. These ruling political parties are generally labelled Islamist, but they do not espouse violence to achieve their goals, and thus this term, as I have already said, is not the most appropriate and can be misleading.

Let us therefore be careful not use the label of Islamism too liberally. This term has become so wide in scope that it no longer meaningful. Since it is often used to describe Muslim terrorist groups, other groups that are fully democratic and do not practice terrorism, are also assumed to be terrorists. That is unfair to these other groups, and that is why I prefer to limit the term to groups that endorse violence.

I may not yet enjoy support for my proposal, but I find it helpful. Maybe you will too. I hope that this way the term will become more meaningful and fair to all concerned. Please consider it.