A cross-denominational group of religious leaders from across southern California have banded together, calling on Congressman Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) to cease his usage of rhetoric linking Islam to terrorism.
Royce, the representative of California’s 40th district, which covers parts of northern Orange County, has been continuously incorporating language in his publications and speeches that associates religious concepts with violent acts, according to the religious leaders.
In his June and July newsletters, Royce says, "Given the threat from Islamist terrorism facing our country, we need to be acting urgently to protect the United States every day."
The term "Islamist terrorism" also makes an appearance in "e-newsletters" from Royce titled "Victory for U.S. Intelligence," dated July 15, and "How to Close the Terrorist Loophole," on June 24, as well as on Royce’s website.
A letter, initiated by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and signed by various interfaith leaders, was sent to Royce’s Fullerton office in early August urging him to use alternative terminology such as "violent extremists" when discussing the War on Terrorism, in order to prevent polarization of one specific religious group.
The letter, which includes signatures by Christian, Jewish, Japanese and Filipino organizations, some from Royce’s own district, cites a January publication by the Department of Homeland Security outlining recommendations for government officials on terminology to use when describing terrorists.
The DHS recommends exercising caution when using terms such as "Islamist," "Islamic terrorist," "radical Islamism," "jihadist," and "holy warrior."
The letter to Royce states, "Using this type of language may not only offend and alienate the overwhelming majority of Muslims, who abhor violence, but it may also unintentionally legitimize terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and other anti-American forces."
Community members and Royce’s mailers alerted CAIR to the congressman’s use of inflammatory rhetoric earlier in the summer.
After faxing individual letters and making calls to Royce’s office which Royce did not respond to, CAIR officials penned a formal letter in conjunction with various local religious organizations protesting the association of any faith with violence or terrorism.
The civil rights organization also started a community postcard campaign, which encouraged members of the Muslim community to sign postcards asking Royce to discontinue his use of inciting language.
Royce has yet to formally respond to the interfaith letter, but he did tell InFocus that he pulled the term "Islamist" from the 9/11 Commission Report.
Royce said he was careful not to use the word "Islamic" when referring to the terrorism taking place in the Middle East because it refers to the religion of Islam, but that the 9/11 Commission Report, which he said took years and money to compile and thus was more warranted than recommendations by Muslim community members, had defined the word "Islamist" as a "political movement," and thus could be legitimately used.
Furthermore, he stated that he did not include the term "Islamist terrorism" in the newsletters he sent out to his constituents, but only in e-newsletters that were sent out to members who signed up and were looking for a more in-depth analysis of his stance on certain issues.
"I’m trying my best here," said Royce.
CAIR officials do not agree.
"Whether Royce says ‘Islamist,’ ‘Islamic,’ or any other form, it’s just semantics," said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR’s Greater Los Angeles-area office.
"The fact remains, we don’t describe extremist Israeli settlers who target Palestinian civilians as ‘Jewish terrorists’ nor abortion clinic bombers as ‘Christian terrorists’ -- and rightly so. No faith should be falsely associated with the criminal behavior of a few. Not Islam, not Judaism, not Christianity."
Royce’s attempt to legitimize his actions by referring to the 9/11 Commission Report does not build a case to allow the use of such terminology, according to CAIR-LA’s Government Relations Coordinator Sharaf Mowjood.
"The DHS takes into consideration the 9/11 Commission Report because they are here to prevent the next terrorist attack," said Mowjood. "So if Royce cares about preventing the next terrorist attack, maybe he should follow what the DHS says. That is their job, after all."