Several words and terms used throughout this book need explanation. Particularly contentious are the words used to describe Muslims of extreme or radical views. Though the word "extremist" usually refers to hard-line political militants, Muslims reasonably ask whether the term condemns all faithful believers. If Islam is a good religion, they might argue, it is only right to be zealous and radical in its interests. An "extreme Muslim" might be one who, inspired by the faith, devotes his or her whole life to works of charity. Was not Francis of Assisi a radical or extreme Christian? And does "Islamist" mean anything more than a good Muslim? Some Muslim writers retort that if their zealots are Islamists, then devoted Christians with a political orientation must be Christianists.
While acknowledging these objections, I believe that the words "Islamist" and "extremist" do refer to important concepts for which no convenient alternative term exists. As used here, the word "Islamist" refers to activists who seek to establish Islamic political power, to reorganize society according to their vision of Islamic law. As for extremists, I will borrow the definition offered in a thoughtful report by the U.S. National Intelligence Council: "We define Muslim extremists as a subset of Islamic activists. They are committed to restructuring political society in accordance with their vision of Islamic law and are willing to use violence."1
Another word requiring explanation is "liberal," which refers to quite different political values on either side of the Atlantic. Generally, an American liberal favors expanding personal rights and civil liberties while using state intervention to achieve socially progressive causes, to advance traditionally underprivileged groups. Hence, liberals are on the political left. In Europe, in contrast, liberalism usually means a belief in laissez-faire economics and small government, combating the growth of the over-mighty state: liberals are thus opposed to socialist or communist advances. In American terms, then, European "liberals" are thus on the political right. In the present book, though, I will use the progressive American sense of "liberalism."
Finally, I often refer in this book to the European Union, a phrase that has over the years referred to quite different realities. Though I do not need to offer a detailed history here, we should note changes both of name and of composition. From 1957 to 1973, six nations composed the European Economic Community, which would also be referred to as the European Community. The Community grew steadily, until today it includes twenty-five nations, with several others in line for membership. Since the signature of the Maastricht treaty in 1992, the Community has become the European Union, EU. In speaking of recent European history, I use the term European Union to refer to the various stages of unifying Europe without precisely identifying what that grouping was called at a particular historical point.
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