LONDON - Britain’s Foreign Office is urging government officials to stop using the US term “war on terror” amid concerns it angers British Muslims and undermines government aims, a weekly newspaper said on Sunday.
The government wants to “avoid reinforcing and giving succour to the terrorists’ narrative by using language that, taken out of context, could be counter-productive,” a Foreign Office spokesman told The Observer.
The Foreign Office has sent the same message to cabinet ministers as well as diplomats and other government representatives around the world, according to the report. “We tend to emphasize upholding shared values as a means to counter terrorists,” the spokesman was quoted as saying.
Many British officials and experts, the weekly said, suspect that Islamist extremists find it easier to recruit followers when western governments speak of a war on terror, by suggesting it is actually a war against Islam.
Gary Hindle, terrorism expert at the Royal United Services Institute in London, hailed the decision to drop the term, though it was not clear whether it was being widely carried out. “It’s about time,” Hindle told The Observer.
“Military terminology is completely counter-productive, merely contributing to isolating communities. This is a very positive move.”
The White House began referring to the “war on terror” in the weeks after Al Qaeda attacked New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.
The government-backed British Muslim Forum meanwhile is teaching Muslims that dying while fighting for Britain’s armed forces is an act of martyrdom rather than one of a traitor, which extremists insist it is, it was reported.
In holding talks nationwide, The Sunday Times said, the group argues that a Muslim soldier in the British forces will be a martyr and a hero for Britain even if he dies fighting in Muslim countries like Afghanistan.