Word Fights

April 25, 2006

Here is an interesting article from the Christian Science Monitor: Fighting terrorism one word at a time. Here are a few highlights:

Officials in Brussels have embarked on an unusual exercise, combing their dictionaries to excise words and phrases that could cause offense.

When the review is complete and the rules laid down, you will not, for example, hear EU officials talk any more about "Islamic terrorism."

That sort of shorthand reference to the bombings in Madrid and London, and other outrages committed in the name of Islam, is commonplace today. But EU policymakers worry that it lumps all Muslims into the same category, and angers them.

... That means, for example, that officials will be debating if and how to use terms such as "Islamist," "fundamentalist," and "jihad." Though Al Qaeda uses the term "jihad" to mean holy war against "infidels," many Muslim scholars and adherents see jihad as an individual, spiritual battle that each Muslim wages within himself against evil of all kinds.

Officials are quick to reassure skeptics that the new language rules will not be legally binding on anyone, and are designed only for use by people speaking in the EU's name, not for journalists or anybody else.
The thoughtful and careful consideration given here to what words to use should inspire us all. It would be great if Christians would give as much attention to our words as these politicians. While we do not need to necessarily work up a new dictionary, hopefully we can remove offensive and divisive terms from our vocabulary. We should not let a few poorly chosen words prevent our chance of engaging people in meaningful conversations.