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Wednesday, August 11, 2010 

An "Islamic mosque" and political language.

There's been a lot of hyperbolic rhetoric expressed against the plans to build an Islamic cultural and community centre within 2 blocks of where the World Trade Center used to stand, and also the inimitable Sarah Palin coining the neologism refudiate in the process. Best so far though has to be this effort by Bryan Fischer, from the American Family Association:

Permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America, let alone the monstrosity planned for Ground Zero. This is for one simple reason: each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government.

Not because of his casually asserted claim that every single American Muslim must therefore be dedicated to overthrowing the federal government, something that the more out there Christian organisations in the US usually stake out as their territory. No, far more interesting is his use of a tautology: why exactly would you ever need to describe a mosque, defined solely by both Chambers and Merriam-Webster as a Muslim place of worship, as an "Islamic mosque"?

The only explanation I can think of, without it being a mistake which has been left uncorrected, is that it just sounds scarier. Islamic mosque. A mosque, regardless of what goes on it, is just a building, and generally non-threatening. Islamic by comparison, feels like a harsh term, almost oppressive, harder than Muslim, colder even than Islam itself. Islamic extremist, Islamic radical, both seem to go together, or the media makes it seem like they do. Hence Islamic mosque makes perfect sense for those trying to build opposition to the Cordoba initiative, and what seems stupid on first glance is instead a cynical piece of political language, calculated and primed for maximum effect.

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Islamic = terrorist
Islamic mosque = nest of terrorists.

Dictionary definitions are so restricting.

"Islamic mosque" is as redundant as "muslim terrorist".

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