Even political correctness has its limits
As students and members of the USC community, we are acutely aware of the dangers around campus. Fortunately, the Department of Public Safety does an excellent job of keeping community members protected and informed of incidents by publicizing crime alerts and demonstrating a commitment to providing students with crucial information about our safety.
The Department of Homeland Securityâs Quadrennial Homeland Security Review and the Pentagonâs Quadrennial Defense Review outline the homeland security strategy for the next four years, but there was something unusual about both reports.
Though they included extensive wording on terrorism and extremism, neither report mentioned any derivatives of âIslamismâ whatsoever. Instead, the writers chose words like âviolent extremistsâ and âal Qaedaâ to describe the suspects. Of course, the writers refused to acknowledge that this was a purposeful omission,
Previously, in 2008, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) published âWords that Work and Words that Donât: A Guide for Counterterrorism Communication,â a report discouraging the use of the words âMuslimâ or âIslamicâ to describe terrorist threats. According to the NCTC, doing so perpetuates the âU.S. vs. Islam frameworkâ that only detracts from finding a solution.
While it is imperative not to make a connection between the words âMuslimâ and âterroristâ this particular situation might prove problematic.
Being politically correct is one thing, but it is another to omit facts for fear of creating a bigger mess.
A number of critics have surfaced to evaluate the reports. Sen. Susan Collins deems the âglaring omissionâ made by the two agencies unacceptable. She said, âWhile there are other threats to our national security from other types of violent extremism, the gravest threat comes from Islamist extremists … In a review such as this, it is critical that we identify and address the specific threat posed by Islamist extremism.â
Identifying the enemy â their background, nationality, race, religion â is crucial to combating threats. In our microcosm of the world, DPS alerts us with details about suspect appearances.
For example, a recent crime alert from Feb. 19 describes a suspect of a strong armed robbery as being a black male, listing his height, weight and dress. Â Isnât the point of filing such reports to alert people of all necessary facts? It promotes transparency and, thus, a greater awareness of our safety.
Is it religionâs involvement that complicates the situation? Are we okay with providing biological facts about a suspect but would prefer to steer clear of bringing the issue of religion into the fray?
Perhaps it isnât bigoted to claim that Muslim extremists are the most significant threat to national security, when that might actually be the case. Of course, it is important not to rely on prejudices and stereotypes. But the countryâs so-called âcollective guilt,â when it comes to repenting for the sins of the past â for enacting racist laws and breeding narrow-mindedness, among many other things â surely shouldnât continue perpetually.
With all due respect and without incensing the masses, it is important to realize that being politically correct can only take us so far. Sometimes, it takes us in the wrong direction.
It doesnât help that the Department of Homeland Securityâs report was the first of its kind from the department. By creating the precedent of omitting this sort of crucial information, what does it mean for our security? Is it protecting the identities of the suspects? Is it taking measures to be politically correct to avoid stepping on the toes of human rights activists?
The NCTC suggests using âdeath cultâ to describe terrorists. Â Is that a better way to characterize these individuals? I think not.
If this is a matter of a mere error in semantics or of staying on every partyâs good side, then those policymakers have failed to achieve their goals.
Nadine Tan is a sophomore majoring in international relations. Her column, âWorld Rapport,â runs Fridays.