Muslim vs. Moslem

The question recently came up as to whether the term "Moslem" (as opposed to "Muslim") is considered insulting or somehow anti-Moslem*. More specifically, I made the claim (though I did not put it this way exactly at the time) that "Moslem" was a dogwhistle signifying teabagging anti-Obama racist scumpuppies.

I have since been told by various teabagging anti-Obama racist scumpuppies that I was wrong, but I was told this in such a way as to convince me that I must be right, even though I was going on gut feeling at the time.

Subsequently, I decided to do some research.

I separately entered the terms "Muslim" and "Moslem" into Google, searching for "blogs." I eliminated aggregation sites, and sites where English is not the primary language, in order to avoid transnational variation in spelling that may not have political meanings. I kept opening, inspecting, and sometimes eliminating sites until I got ten on each search term. This was NOT done with double-blind procedures, so I may or may not have eliminated some sites because of bias. I think I didn't. You are welcome to redo the work and see.

For the term "Muslim" I found these sites:

Explicitly Anti Muslim

Vaguely anti-Muslim

Religion-Critical, focusing on Islam

Religion-Critical, Not Anti-Islam

Ecumenical/religious studies and/or Critical of Islam Defamation

Neutral or pro-Muslim

The result? One could say that six sites were not specifically anti-Muslim in the sense that one hates all things Muslim and is prejudiced against Muslims, but several of these sites are either critical of religion generally or Islam in particular. Four of these sites are, simply put, anti-Muslim.

In contrast, when we look at the search term "Moslem" we get an entirely different picture:

Anti Muslim and Anti Obama


Quoted from anti-Muslim source in not-anti-Muslim blog


One site was neutral in relation to Muslims, one was a liberal, not anti-Muslim site quoting an anti-Muslim quote using the spelling "Moslem", one was an anti-Muslim site, and the remaining seven were rabid anti Muslim AND anti-Obama sites.

In other words, "Moslem" as a spelling, in the English language in Western discourse and/or mainly US based culture, is a dog whistle signifying teabaggers and things teabaggy.

Case closed, bitches.

*By which I mean Islamic


More like this

I remember "moslem" being a common spelling almost 40 years ago (though I spelled it 'muslim' even back then). By the late 1980s "muslim" seemed to be winning. I'm not old enough to remember "musselman" used much though. I don't see how your homework could have answered your original question though. You'd have to interview adherents of the religion to find out whether or not they consider "moslem" offensive. I'll bet most don't find it offensive, but some will.

By MadScientist (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink

You'd have to interview adherents of the religion to find out whether or not they consider "moslem" offensive. I'll bet most don't find it offensive, but some will.

It is considered offensive by many, and this is noted on some anti-defamation sites and in a guide to reporters and editors in choosing spelling. I've note that elsewhere, but did not deal with it here.

It is probably not a big deal to many people, but that only makes it a more effective dog whistle. When you call someone on it, they can make the claim that they are doing nothing wrong, while all along, it IS being used as a dog whistle.

(This is why the "N-word" is not a dog whistle, but mentioning Al Sharpton's hair is! Or, really, must mentioning Al Sharpton.)

MUST you mention Al Sharpton? I have been trying to forget he existed... :/

While perusing an old bookshelf (the books were old, not the shelf) my girlfriend and I discovered a book of world religions with the term "Mohammedanism" in it. This term was once quite frequently used, from what I've gathered.

Your first mistake was taking anything said by teabaggers are even closely resembling truth. They saturate themselves in hate and lies.

By NewEnglandBob (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink

I can't see why it would be offensive. It's just old. "Muslim" is considered a better transliteration nowadays, but both are somewhat arbitrary mappings from the Arabic. The people who use "Moslem" are mostly older people who didn't learn the new way, or who reject it just because it's new and they're set in their ways. Which means they're conservative, which means they're coincidentally more likely to be anti-Muslim. But that would make it an unintentional marker rather than a dog-whistle.

Outside of the admitted caveat of not being double blinded, it your conclusion seems reasonable (and matches my own gut feeling). It does seem to be a dog whistle.

Now, what can be concluded by researching when the term was more common amongst different groups? Does this indicate a purposeful insult or merely that certain groups (perhaps older?) tend to be more bigoted?

Interesting pilot study...

I can't see why it would be offensive. It's just old. "Muslim" is considered a better transliteration nowadays, but both are somewhat arbitrary mappings from the Arabic.

Nemo, exactly. This is the point. The distinction is subtle and one would expect unimportant.

But I noticed that Moslem was being used MORE often, not less often, and MAINLY by anti-Muslim US based sites that also happened to be anti-Obama birthers and "Obama is a muslim plot"-ers.

It works as a dog whistle, a subtle and deniable signal of membership in a certain ilk exactly because it is subtle and not well defined.

Like "the sad truth is that the statistics don't lie" instead of "nigger." You can't use the later without being called a racist (correctly), but lamenting the (made up and misused, misinterpreted and invalid) statistics that (proport to but don't) show the inferiority of the dark skinned people .... when the lamenting is by a pinkish to white skinned person ... is a white supremacist/racist dog whistle.

Dog whistles can't be hear by anyone but the dogs. That is why we call this phenomenon "dog whistle" and not "in your face whistle" or "tornado siren" or something.

Could one then call sundry references to "Darwinism" in creationist literature a creationist "dog-whistle"?

Separately (but connected to the use of 'Darwinism"): there was a period (probably) when "moslem" was the regular, non-denigrating way of referring to the adherents of the monotheist religion that proclaims Mohammed its last and most important prophet. (If there wasn't such a time of regular use, would the "dog whistle" still work as such?) So when does the "dog whistle" use of a term arise? Just when an alternative, like the better transcription in the "moslem"-"muslim" case, becomes commonly known?

Btw, I think a similar change happens/happened in German, and I think "Moslem" may also be on its way to "dog-whistle" there. (Don't take my word for it, though.)

By Ben Breuer (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink

OK, I get it - so idiots use "moslem" because they believe it is some sort of insult and it becomes a convenient giveaway.

@Kengi: The older generation does seem to be more tribal; this is perhaps partly because they have not traveled as much and met many different people. The tribalism is also ingrained; if the later generation is not taught different values they will simply adhere to the values of the previous generation. Looking different does help to segregate people, but it is not a necessary prerequisite. If you travel through isolated areas most people are usually pretty friendly but there are always a few who just don't like any strangers. Thanks to some nasty oil and gas companies I've also been to a number of places where folks who are friendly to strangers are a minority. It's no fun when you travel and almost everyone greets you with a shotgun under their arm.

By MadScientist (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink

Man, now I'm trying to think if atheists have any dog-whistle terms. I'm not fully awake yet but 'Jebus' is the only one that springs to mind; I don't know if that's because a lot of the others are more subtle, or if we just let the facts speak for us and don't need to hide what we're saying.

Atheists just call superstition what it is: superstition. Though I've read some blogs and writings that refer to "religionists," a term I've found convenient from time to time. I doubt it's any sort of dog-whistle, however, since it seems to clearly convey it's meaning and intent.

"Jebus," "Xian" and similar terms are likewise fairly obvious. I think, if there is any subtlety in use in literature by atheists it would be the lack of capitalizations of "god" and "him" or "he" when referring to the Christian god.

The thing that strikes me about the a dog-whistle like "Moslem" is that it's deniably offensive by its user but only because the intent to be pejorative is understood by the receiver in spite of deniable intent of the meaning. That nuance of language, being abused by teabaggers is fascinating.

Incidentally, even the term "teabagger," while subtle, is still overt in it's deserved pejorative intent.

Could one then call sundry references to "Darwinism" in creationist literature a creationist "dog-whistle"?

Yup. Continental Drift (instead of plate tectonics), too.

Bones: That's why I excluded non-English, both because the alleged dog whistle seemms to be a US phenomenon mainly and because a subtle spelling variant form of dog whistle isn't going to work across even closely related langauges.

Of coruse, one could mention that we are very unlikely to see a termm for an Islamic person in German that is not derogatory at some level, even if the average modern well educated German is not particularly anti-Islam.

Oldster weighing in here. In the 50s and 60s, schoolbooks still said 'Moslem'. The Black Muslims of the mid-60s introduced the variant spelling. Some people thought that 'Muslim' was therefore a black version of 'Moslem', but the newspapers began switching to the newer spelling.

It's kind of like how white nationalists are in the habit of using antiquated terms like "negress" and "Jewess".

A small portion of it may just have to do with the age of the source. My mother, who as far as I know isn't anti-Muslim, used to pronounce it that way (don't know if she still does). My edition of the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy also uses the spelling, though it isn't that old.

By rienzi0711 (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink

Of coruse, one could mention that we are very unlikely to see a termm for an Islamic person in German that is not derogatory at some level, even if the average modern well educated German is not particularly anti-Islam.

a) Do you know German ?
b) Do you know the different terms for "Islamic persons"
and their contemporary usage in current German ?

If you say yes to both, then please share your wisdom, I am
very interested. If you say no to one or both questions I would like to know how do you come to your statement.

Wiki seems to agree that "Moslem" is "an abuse of the word", if not of the people of Islam.

"Mahometan" has a nice old-fashioned ring to it.


I have a purely* speculative idea to throw out: perhaps the older "Moslem" was adopted when the English-speaking world's main connection with the Middle East was pre-WWI, when the Ottoman Empire called the shots and the official proper pronunciation called for a Turkish accent. Now that Arabic has resurged (it's a word now, okay?), the vowels have moved south.

*Actually, I have traveled in Turkey and Arabic-speaking countries, though avoiding discussion of religion whenever possible. Entering Egypt for the first time, I got in trouble for greeting locals with "salaam" as I'd learned to say it in Turkey, which sounds more like "shalom", and that, to say the least, is not a welcome word in most parts of Cairo...

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink

TSK, if I knew it to be fact, I'd have stated it as a fact. But I am well read in english translations of German literature having to do with race and racism, and I am not impressed with any sort of dispassionate humanitarianism in the literature, the discourse, or the culture of my own ancestors.

German non-muslim public attitudes towards Muslims are not too different than in the US: Opposition to building mosques, opposition to Islamic organizations, etc. One differences is that the Germans have probably managed to ban more Islamic organizations than the Americans, owing to differences in what the state can do and not do.

If you have evidence to contradict what I've said, other than your own credulity, let's have it. I'm perfectly willing to see a few paragraphs on how, linguistically, Germans are all nicy-nice to Islam.

You can start with the Asylbetrüger Kameltreiber and work your way up from there.

Or, are you too proud? (sorry, inside joke)

PB: Interesting theory about pronounciation. I had assumed it was a matter of which dialect/subculture of English (brits vs americans, eg) were currently in charge of butchering the pronunciation.

I don't think Moslem is the standard term in German. Media articles usually use Muslim, for example. Moslem, as I know it, is used by older people and mostly not in a nice context.

So, it's also a dog whistle in Germany.

By Chris From Europe (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink

In most contemporary dictionaries and newspapers, the "Muslim" spelling is preferred. That is mainly because it is closer to the Arabic spelling. Since Arabic and English use different alphabets and some sounds are different too, it is always a problem to settle on the "correct" transliteration of a word.

My gut feeling is that many Islamophobes prefer the older spelling "Moslem" because that is the only one they are comfortable with since many of them are so close-minded that they do not read much modern writing about Islam except that which is written by those who agree with them. It is a close-minded and closed system in which everyone uses what has become the archaic spelling.

These same people are more likely to use another archaic term, "Mohammedan", for a follower of Islam. Since Muslims do not deify Muhammad (unlike Christians who defify Jesus) they do not use the name of their prophet as the name of their religion.

Some people still say "Bombay" (Mumbai) or "Pekin" (Beijing) out of laziness or cultural arrogance. However, it's been a very long time since anyone talked about "Constantinople" (Istanbul" in referring to the once Roman empire city.

Greg Laden @ #23

PB: Interesting theory about pronounciation. I had assumed it was a matter of which dialect/subculture of English (brits vs americans, eg) were currently in charge of butchering the pronunciation.

No, PB's theory is correct - in Turkish, the concept of vowel harmony causes 'müsliman' to become 'müslüman' and that let to a transliteration as 'moslem' instead of 'muslim'.

In German, the situation is currently thus: The official word, used in scientific literature and by Muslim organizations, is 'Muslim' - but this is such a recent development that 'Moslem' is still in widespread use and doesn't seem to be considered a pejorative. 'Muselmann' and 'Mohammedaner' are outdated and could be considered pejoratives. Insults towards Muslims seem to be mostly based on national/racial stereotypes, which are then simply indiscriminately transferred onto the religion as such - the vast majority of Muslims in Germany are of Turkish descent, and the rest is simply lumped in with them for the purpose of insulting.

By Phillip IV (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink

In (slight) support of my suggestion @ # 21, my 1974 Webster's says "Muslim" is "same as Moslem", while the actual definition under "Moslem" traces the word to "Ar. muslim".

The more modern dictionary in my Widget accessories says that "Moslem" is the variant and "Muslim" is preferred, as does my 1992 American Heritage Dictionary.

Webster's also offers "Moslemic", which I've never seen anywhere before, with either set of vowels.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink

Damn! I got one right?!?

Phillip IV - whence "müsliman"?

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink

Pierce R. Butler @ #28:

Phillip IV - whence "müsliman"?

I left out a step - the word started out as 'muslim' in Arabic, but became 'musliman' in Persian, from where it would have become 'müsliman' in Turkish, but vocal harmony shifted the second vowel to arrive at 'müslüman'.

By Phillip IV (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink

... And then, moving right along to English of recent centuries:

A few uses of the term "Mussalman":

Ghandi, 1922 "Collection of writings" (in a chapter title)

Sewell, R. 1900 A Forgotten Empire: Vijayanagar; A Contribution to the History of India
by Robert Sewell

The town was taken,
"and eleven sons of the Rai were made prisoners and carried to the
Sultan, who made them all Mussalmans."

we may remember the treatment of the city of
Bijapur by Krishna Deva Raya,[273] and surmise that the houses of the
Vijayanagar suburbs may have been pulled to pieces by the Mussalman
soldiery in search for firewood.

etc. etc.

19th century translation of Travels in the Mogul Empire (original 1670 but it may not have been the exact same word)

Mungo Park, "Travels to the Interior of Africa" published 1816 but probably written around 1795.

Tiggity Sego held a palaver
on a very extraordinary occasion, which I attended; and the debates
on both sides of the question displayed much ingenuity. The case
was this:- A young man, a kafir of considerable affluence, who had
recently married a young and handsome wife, applied to a very devout
bushreen, or Mussalman priest, of his acquaintance, to procure him
saphies for his protection during the approaching war. The bushreen
complied with the request; and in order, as he pretended, to render
the saphies more efficacious, enjoined the young man to avoid any
nuptial intercourse with his bride for the space of six weeks.
Severe as the injunction was, the kafir strictly obeyed; and,
without telling his wife the real cause, absented himself from her
company. In the meantime, it began to be whispered at Teesee that
the bushreen, who always performed his evening devotions at the door
of the kafir's hut, was more intimate with the young wife than he
ought to be. At first the good husband was unwilling to suspect the
honour of his sanctified friend, and one whole month elapsed before
any jealousy rose in his mind, but hearing the charge repeated, he
at last interrogated his wife on the subject, who frankly confessed
that the bushreen had seduced her. Hereupon the kafir put her into
confinement, and called a palaver upon the bushreen's conduct. The
fact was clearly proved against him; and he was sentenced to be sold
into slavery, or to find two slaves for his redemption, according to
the pleasure of the complainant. The injured husband, however, was
unwilling to proceed against his friend to such extremity, and
desired rather to have him publicly flogged before Tiggity Sego's
gate. This was agreed to, and the sentence was immediately
executed. The culprit was tied by the hands to a strong stake; and
a long black rod being brought forth, the executioner, after
flourishing it round his head for some time, applied it with such
force and dexterity to the bushreen's back as to make him roar until
the woods resounded with his screams. The surrounding multitude, by
their hooting and laughing, manifested how much they enjoyed the
punishment of this old gallant; and it is worthy of remark that the
number of stripes was precisely the same as are enjoined by the
Mosaic law, FORTY, SAVE ONE.

Phillip IV - thanks!

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink

If you have evidence to contradict what I've said, other than your own credulity, let's have it. I'm perfectly willing to see a few paragraphs on how, linguistically, Germans are all nicy-nice to Islam.

First of all: Your claim was (I cite) "one could mention that we are very unlikely to see a termm for an Islamic person in German that is not derogatory at some level",
NOT that insults dont exist or that Germans are nice to believers in Islam.

Well, Greg, there you are: "Moslem" and "Muslim" are both neutral and interchangeable names for a believer in Islam.
If you want to give it some bad connotation, you need to add
negative non-verbal and verbal signs.

Older people may still use "Mohammedaner" but it is old and if it is used, it is very likely ignorance, not deliberateness.

"Muselmane" is only be used if you want to write adventure novels from the 19th century. Never heard that.

What you are actually searching for is the both politically
and religiously highly loaded term "Islamist" which is
as a translation from not far away from your innocous usage of "Islamic believer" in English. As you said: Different languages, different connotations.

Or you can say "Fundamentalist/Fundi" if you want to pronounce the assumed religious hostility of the believer.
"Islamofaschist" is also used by right-wing people.

"Asylbetrüger" is a bad example because it has practically no connotation with Islam. :)
What is implied with the usage is that the callee is not persecuted as he/she claims but wanted to go to Germany for a better (lazy) life. It does not fit because since several
years Germany only give asylum to a fraction of people and
most Islamic persons did not come as asylum seeker but as
workforce in the 50/60s. So it isnt used as insult against
muslims but mostly as incitement by right-wingers in print against groups they dont like. It is comparable with the use of "slacker" in the US. It may mean anyone, but naturally used more for unliked groups.

"Kameltreiber" is derogatory, but not used as insult often. Mostly if you want to insult in German, you add "ScheiÃ-" as prefix to any group you want to insult.

When my dad was a Shriner, all their fezzes were embroidered with the word "Moslem", a scimitar, and the "temple" (lodge) name, usually something Arabic-sounding. Don't know if that's still the case. FWIW.

And: Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks!

Yes, I didn't state my original point well at all.

Mostly if you want to insult in German, you add "ScheiÃ-" as prefix to any group you want to insult.

Is there any wonder that the Germans are seen as being so very systematic.

Now that I think of it, I'm not sure if the Shiners called their lodges "temples" or "mosques". Man, talk about fatwa bait...

Yes, older fez's sometimes say "Moslah or Moslam, and later ones don't seem to. Some say "Oriental"

The temple was the local organization, which then met in a mosque, but but that nomenclature has been replaced by "Auditorium" or "center". The first temple was the Mecca Temple, now known as the Mecca Shriners.

So there is a drawing back from certain cultural embodiments, over time, it would seem.

And, I'm an expert on this because I looked it up in the Holy Wikipedia.

Is there any wonder that the Germans are seen as being so very systematic.

Sure, templates in all forms are sparing work and
are therefore very convienient.
Especially negative templates (insults, prejudices and stereotypes for *all* kind of people) should be used
excessively because Germans found out that thinking over negative behavior disturbs its effectiveness.
There are rumors that other nations are beginning to use them, too.

BTW: What is the meaning of these strange words "humor" and "sarcasm" ?

Humor is a liquid such as found in the eye, and I think Sarcasm is a French thing.

In most contemporary dictionaries and newspapers, the "Muslim" spelling is preferred. That is mainly because it is closer to the Arabic spelling.

Technically it would be closer to the pronunciation, not the spelling, as Arabic uses a single letter to represent e and i sounds and another to represent both u and o sounds.

Some people still say "Bombay" (Mumbai) or "Pekin" (Beijing) out of laziness or cultural arrogance.

To be fair, Peking was the name of the city in a different dialect, it means the same thing, just in Cantonese(I think).
As for Mumbai, there are still plenty of Indian who still call it Bombay as well, out of habit I suppose. It was called Bombay for a long time.

Muslim=one who submits (to God)
Moslem--(which sounds like "Muzlem")=sounds similar to the word for oppressor

Moslem is to Muslim as Christianist is to Christian.

By doctorgoo (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink

Um, actually, Islamist is to Muslim as Christianist is to Christian. Both refer to the explicitly political groups of people pushing their religion as an explicitly political thing.

I reckon Moslem beats Mussulman!

By Charles Sullivan (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink

I reckon Moslem beats Mussulman.

By Charles Sullivan (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink

So is anyone asking any actual moslems/muslims about this? I just did-- I ran it by my wife, who is a moslem/muslim, born in Iran, and a native Farsi speaker as well as having a passing familiarity with Arabic.

She looked at this post and said "what's the big deal? I always spelled it "moslem" when I first came here. It's just the way it was transliterated. Eventually the other spelling got to be more popular so I switched. No big deal."

She went on to point out that many, many words from Arabic and Farsi have multiple spellings in English, it just depends on who's doing the transliteration, and that native speakers of those languages are not particularly bothered by this.

Clearly there is a kind of distinction between the two, she says, and it's like the distinction of whether you call the language of Iran "Farsi" or "Persian." There is a political dimension to it, just as some of her co-nationals will refer to themselves as "Persian" as opposed to "Iranian." The former is used by supporters of the Shah and the older generation, the latter by more Islamists and younger people. Although it's also an adaptation to the American view of people from Iran-- many of her family will call themselves Persian rather than Iranian because they seem to think it seems more non-threatening to Americans.

So there's some political dimension to moslem/muslim, but as for "Moslem" being actually offensive to real Muslims, it's clearly not the case.

I think there is an attempt here to export a specifically American "dog whistle" to other countries/cultures/languages. The main problem is simply how to translate/transliterate from Arabic to English or French or German or Czech, etc. You could also play games with the numerous differing ways of spelling Mohamad/Muhammad/Mohammet, etc. I could also point out that there are some eight different ways to transliterate my family name from Irish(Gaelic) into English.

My wife is Turkish, and she agrees with Pierce R. Butler and Phillip IV. The progression also reflect the change of ruling group language over the history of Islam. First Arabic - the original revelation. Next came Persian, because once Islam was adopted there, Persian became an important language for commentary on the Koran and writing generally, as Persian had a longer and stronger literary tradition. Lastly, as the language of the imperial administration, Ottoman Turkish(Osmanlica) become preeminent.

Truthfully, "Moslem" is probably about as offensive as "Peking". It's just an outdated transliteration. I would consider "Muslim" to be more correct than "Moslem", and would favor "Beijing" over "Peking", but honestly, the only really correct spelling would involve abandoning the Roman alphabet.

I agree with the commenters who pointed out that it would indicate a more conservative mindset. It's an older word, and one not wishing to change their mind about something or who learned their ideas from older sources may favor older spellings. (That also compares well with the "Peking/Beijing" analogy; if you see "Peking", you know you're looking at an older source, and those tend to be a bit less sympathetic to the actual residents of that ancient city. Mileage certainly varies, of course.) But in the end, it's what the person *says* about Muslims (by any spelling) that really matters.

Next, should we get into the question of how to spell Islam's holiest book? :-D

I do remember the first time I read "The Arabian Nights" (as a child) and getting puzzled by the reference to "Musselmen". I thought it must be some obscure ethnic group that enjoyed a lot of shellfish. :-P

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 15 Nov 2010 #permalink

["Moslem" is] just an outdated transliteration

Originally, yes. But Greg has shown a correlation between use of that transliteration and anti-Muslim beliefs. That is where the analogy to Peking/Beijing breaks down. The "Peking" transliteration, at least in English, survives only in certain specific contexts. One of the city's leading universities is still referred to in English as Peking University although its characters include the characters for Beijing (literal translation: Northern Capital). Also, the airport code for Beijing is still PEK. ISTR that the French still call it something like Peking, but most of the world has adopted the new spelling. (Not necessarily the pronunciation, though; some English speakers, particularly the British, give the J its French value rather than the English value, which is closer to the local pronunciation.) By contrast, some people continue to use the older transliteration "Moslem" instead of the closer-to-Arabic "Muslim". In the US that correlates with conservative thinking, thus it becomes a dog whistle (the point being, as others have pointed out, that most people who aren't conservatives can't hear it).

The term "Musselman" seems to have been the current term in the 18th and early 19th centuries. I have a vague recollection of encountering that term in Gibbons' Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which devotes a chapter to the newfangled religion coming out of the Arabian peninsula in the 7th century.

the word started out as 'muslim' in Arabic, but became 'musliman' in Persian

Was this step actually needed? I would think "musliman" would be the Arabic plural of "muslim", as many Arabic words form plurals that way (e.g., "taleb" becomes "taliban").

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 15 Nov 2010 #permalink

Calli, are you offering an alternative explanation for the observations cited above (the strong bias in which spelling is chosen depending on one's political stripe?). ]

Yes, I cannot avoid thinking of steamed Mussels when I see that word. Makes me hungry. This whole conversation is likely to be the cause of a certain dish for dinner tonight.

Coastal Seafoods had PEI mussels as of this weekend. Not sure what kind of shape they'd be in now, of course, but they were delicious as of last night.

Greg, I think I have a much simpler reason for your search result:

a) In the beginning there are several words for a specific
b) The leaders or most prominent followers of a hostile
group choose one of the words to name their enemies.
c) Because the followers are imitating their leaders and use
mostly their own mediums to communicate, the usage of a
word in a group is growing and spreading.
d) Because the word is used mostly in a negative context or
used by obnoxious people, the word begins to evoke
negative feelings in the attacked group and their

So we have correlation, *not* causation. Anyway:

e) Because people have notorious bad memories and are not
interested in linguistics, the attacked group and their
supporters begin to believe that the word is inherently

f) By self-supporting feedback the word does in fact evolve
into a derogatory term and the hostile group does know
that they cant use it without identifying themselves.

g) Start again by b).

TSK: Through step D is not not correlation without causation. It is a causal structure, and an example of the phylogenetic effect. And of course, that is exactly how the current situation would have initially come to be.

E -> F cold be correct or the derogatory nature could be already in place, or both, actually. Those would all work. I have not checked the age of the "Moslem is bad" sources, but given that it is codified in the editorial recommendations it is probably five to ten years old. I don't know how old the Moslem as dog whistle phenomenon is but I had the impression it is newer. But that could easily be wrong.

I don't see your scenario as an alternative to the synchronic fact that birthers and teabaggers use "Moslem" as a dogwhislte. Rather, I think what you've done here is to lay out a viable framework for the process by which this came to be which can probably be generalized to other dog whistles or terms.

No one things that the phrase "democrat party" spontaneously erupted among Republicans, or that it has an older meaning. Rather, we think (because we know, we saw it) that "Democrat Party" came into being because it is specified in a talking points memo behind the scenes distributed among a handful of Republicans, who then started saying "Democrat party" with a sneering voice and a curled lip, and then your sequence as described happened.

TSK, that isn't a simpler reason. It's the same reason. That's a dog-whistle.

Greg's question wasn't why this is being used as a derogatory term. His question was whether use of the term was a fairly reliable signifier of derogatory intent (withing specific cultural boundaries). That the group using the term is self-selecting doesn't negate the usefulness. In fact, as time goes on, that self-selection makes the term more useful as a group signifier.

And discussions like this one also make the term more useful, as people who might otherwise use it inadvertently become aware of the connotations that the whistling group are attaching to it.

Exactly. And we can use phrases like "Jebus loves the moslem" or "The moslem gummit will tax y'all to death" to make fun of them.

TSK, that isn't a simpler reason. It's the same reason. That's a dog-whistle.

I strongly disagree. It conflates the actual meaning and use of a word with its image derived from its usage in a group.
What you are doing by promoting the second use for "dog-whistles" is searching and marking your territority and your group members by language.

Instead of clothing, manners etc. pp. language is used as a marker. Now I fully agree that there are in fact significant differences between groups and many groups use some terms deliberately and consciously as group markers to separate themselves from other groups.
And I also do not deny that there are hidden markers, "dog-whistles", which may betray group identity inadvertently or subconciously.

But explicitly trying to search and define them by group
usage ?
First problem: Group markers are ambigous. A Hells Angels biker will most probably ride a Harley-Davidson, but a Harley-Davidson rider has a high probability to be NOT a Hells Angel.

Second problem: Inadvertent usage.
From my experience I would say there is absolutely no reason
that right-wingers would prefer "Muslim" or "Moslem" with one exception. They know so little about Islam that they only need some word for THEM. The exception is if left-wingers explicitly label one of the term as the right one....

Third problem: Group cohesion.
By constantly trying to search and probe your territority and borders you are constantly increasing the distance between your group and THEM. Similarity decreases aggression, distinctions increase them.

And guess what ? It works the other way, too. "I promote stricter gun laws..." "Lalala, I cannot hear you, you leftist commie". Sounds familiar ?

What I really find dangerous is that due to group cohesion
is it more and more frowned upon to contact THEM. It goes mostly about winning and displaying superiority of your team, not about the actual discussion. I mean, this nice video...*I* surely dont want to discuss with creepy mossbacks who are hanging my friends upside down while sharpening the knives.
And by increasing the gap, you are also prone to idealize or vilify your friends/foes. The same group is either seen as a group of fallen angels or as hideous devils.

Sorry, it is my opinion that if you cannot divide the message (word) from the messenger (group), you open a deep pit of trouble.

OK, so TSK, you are saying that a dog whistle is known to the whistle blower, who has adopted it as party of a group-held strategy, but other uses of identity makers are more incidental and non-intentional, yet meaningful, and that this is a case of the latter?

My impression from those with whom I've conversed who were using the Moslem term (as teabagging birthers) is that they indeed had not adopted it "on purpose" but became aware of it when confronted with it, and then defended it.

However, I'm going go all anthropological on you and problemetize the dichotomy. People who talk about the Democrat Party, who pronounce liberal "librul" and who spell it Moslem are tooting on those whistles and there is not a lot of thought process going on. Awareness that they've adopted a group identiy symbol would require that they have a sense of group, of identity, and of what a symbol is. Not with those IQ's, no way. Nonetheless they are still dog whistles.

One could define a dog whistle as a term used by the organizers, movers, shakers, leaders to communicate with their masses, but that would make that phenomenon part of the post hoc way in which we describe this world, not the sloppily semiotic way in which we construct and wallow around in our world. Linguistically speaking.

This is a caricature of PC run amok. I am old enough to remember when Moslem was the dominant term, just like I am old enough to remember when Negro was the dominant term. Then some idiot who confuses bigotry with the name used for someone or something decides that since some of the people using the term hold ill will toward them, we must introduce a new linguistic shibboleth so that those who are not bigots can demonstrate their clean hearts linguistically, and those who are not current with the PC term can be easily identified for scorn and abuse. In this case, it wasn't people old enough to have grown up considering Moslems just another religious group like Christians or Jews who suddenly changed everyone's perception of them in 2001. Can't any of you see how stupid these semantic "gotcha" games are?

By john smith (not verified) on 16 Nov 2010 #permalink

john, your assumptions are fascinating. In particular, I note the way you think this information is only useful to non-Muslim liberals and then only for purposes of political combat. I don't see a single thought that this might validate the unease of the targets of these dog-whistles (a dog-whistle generally being used to keep them from having a platform from which to complain as forces are marshalled against them). I don't see anything to indicate that anyone might still converse with someone who doesn't agree with them in all particulars.

Really, truly fascinating.

Stephanie, I am guessing that "fascinating" is code for something else, but I will take it at face value. You are correct that nothing i said should be construed as encouraging people to learn to take offense at this old term that some righteous bien pensants have now labeled as pejorative. Like any other term with a long history of respectable denotative use, an intelligent person looks for other clues in the context. It is of course far easier to simply see which word they use and lop their head off if it's the wrong one-- the literal use of the word shibboleth. Not very admirable, not very charitable, but indeed easier. And I find it "fascinating" that you seem to be more worried about whether we are depriving someone who is not sure from other clues that he should be offended of this no-brainer litmus test. And finally, nothing, not one thing, in my first post suggests someone shouldn't "converse with someone who doesn't agree with them in all particulars." That thought comes entirely from your mind, not mine. "Fascinating" indeed.

By john smith (not verified) on 16 Nov 2010 #permalink

john, you showed up to rail at people who were going to use the word as a figurative shibboleth. Nobody here suggested any such thing. All the discussion here is over how to determine by differential usage whether something is a dog-whistle (if possible) and how they may develop.

The assumption that any shunning would be done is entirely yours. It came out of your head, not out of this discussion. Just like the idea of decapitation. Where are you getting this violent imagery? Do you normally hang out with people who suggest this sort of thing, that you now see it where it's not remotely present?

And do you really think "scorn and abuse" are compatible with conversation?

Because the AHD shows (by link under the parts of speech) that "muslim" is the preferred spelling? No more than it's racist because it contains "nigger"--with a special note on usage to convey how offensive it is. Don't be an ass, Brian.

Then some idiot who confuses bigotry with the name used for someone or something decides that since some of the people using the term hold ill will toward them, we must introduce a new linguistic shibboleth so that those who are not bigots can demonstrate their clean hearts linguistically, and those who are not current with the PC term can be easily identified for scorn and abuse.

Almost exactly right, John Smith!! Yes!!!

But it was not an "idiot" but rather culture and linguistic convention. Yes, yes, indeed. Negro vs. African American, Indian vs. Native American, Kaffir vs. Citizen and and Mosselman vs. Muslim. They are all ways of differentiating between those who practice hate and bigotry, often uneducated, always nefarious, frequently embarrassing from those who are respectful, thoughtful, and inclusive.

Which side were you on again?

Brian, you've missed the point.

Dog whistles are not audible to those who do not know what they mean. If a word is not arguably "normal," and being in the dictionary as a normal word is the absolute best way for that to happen it cant' be good dog whistle.

Plus what Stephanie said. Look up "Negro" and the scoot over to the Usage Note for "Black":

âUsage note
3, 21. Black, colored, and Negro have all been used to describe or name the dark-skinned African peoples or their descendants. Colored, now somewhat old-fashioned, is often offensive. In the late 1950s black began to replace Negro and today is the most widely used term. Common as an adjective ( black woman, man, American, people, etc.), black is also used as a noun, especially in the plural. Like other terms referring to skin color ( white, yellow ), black is usually not capitalized, except in proper names or titles ( Black Muslim; Black English ). In the appropriate meanings Afro-American is sometimes used instead of black.

Words shift meanings over decades and centuries. They shift for many reasons. Nouns, especially those designating people, can acquire connotations, favorable or pejorative, for many reasons, some good some poor. In my opinion, one of the stupidest of reasons is for a group to arbitrarily declare a long-established denotative usage suddenly pejorative. It fills a need that some people have to feel morally superior, to make it possible to quickly identify and dismiss "suspect" opinions, and recognize that person as not part of your group. It's a cheap substitute for judging what people actually mean. It is especially likely to be a tool for the self-righteous young to use to feel superior to their elders, who of course have been using the term denotatively for however many decades they have been speaking and are less likely to change their word choices just because you declared it politically incorrect.

Greg, you truly do not "know what side I'm on". You don't know anything about me except that I have no patience for semantic flimflam and the cheap moral superiority that comes with knowing that semantic fashion just changed. You, however, have made it clear that you are on the side of the shallow, unread, and judgmental.

By john smith (not verified) on 19 Nov 2010 #permalink

john, exactly what about Greg's post fits your designation of "arbitrary." He didn't declare a particular spelling off limits. He studied it's current usage (hence, using blogs). If you don't like making judgments that have nothing to do with what's actually been done, don't do it yourself.

John, yes!!! Perfect comment!!! On the third try you've got it right, by Jove!!!!

A dog whistle does not work as a dog whistle if there is not supporting rhetoric claiming that it does not exist and that anyone of the non-dogs who notice it and point to it are seeing things.

Very nicely done. Case closed.

Barney Frank is the only real teabagger!

By derekcrane (not verified) on 07 Feb 2011 #permalink

From my point of view. there's no different between Moslem and Muslim, it's just spelling. E pronounce the same with I in some countries. The different is lies on the poeple who understand or misinterprete about the religion it self.. Not about the spelling.

Meet the God, Do not Judge..

Domain name doesn't represent the meaning of muslim/moslem/islam, moslem/muslim/islam is have the same meaning

case closed jerk

*By which I mean Greg Laden

By brother, fro I… (not verified) on 09 Mar 2011 #permalink

Domain name doesn't represent the meaning of muslim/moslem/islam, moslem/muslim/islam is have the same meaning

case closed jesus motherfucker

*By which I mean Greg Laden

By Fuck greg, bro… (not verified) on 09 Mar 2011 #permalink

comment by troll deleted.

I am white (I know that surprises you) and grew up during the fifties and the sixties.

Do you still call people "coloreds" and "negros" too, or did you keep up with the times on that once someone told you better? Look, Eddie, there's a difference between fixing your ignorance (as you've just done) and insisting on hanging on to old ways and old terms even once you know better. I get that you're probably embarrassed because you've been doing it wrong, but that's no reason to claim all the hateful people are just like you so that your mistake looks more common.

Eddie, that's interesting that you learned that the terminological distinction between African American new-Muslims vs. the Middle East was Muslim vs. Moslem. Do you have anything to back that up other than your own word? (Because you blew your own credibility pretty much out of the water with your over the top ranting, obviously. Not that some guy named "Eddie on the Internet" is a source.)

Anyway I'd love a source on that. Email it to me.

comment by troll deleted.

Going on a gut feeling that another human being is a racist scumpuppy by his or her use of one word

Actually, no. Using the word itself is meaningless. That is why it is a dog whistle. A person saying "I wish the niggers would move out of my neighborhood" is a racist and is not using dog whistles. Saying "Some of my best friends are friends of Al Sharpton, and I let them use my bathroom whenever they need to" is a racist and is using multiple dog whistles.

Mos*/Mus* is a distinction that has multiple historical uses. I know this personally because, for instance, I've read many thousands of pages of original English langauge literature born of missionaries, travelers, antrhopologists and government agents working all across Africa prior to WW II. Both words get used a lot, and it is a matter of local editorial tradition, mainly.

But again, that is not what a dog whistle is.

Your comments are very articulate. If I think you are white and I say that I'm making a statement about your posts. If I think you are black when I say that and I'm a black-fearing liberal without sensitivity training, "articulate" is a code word for "I'm surprised you can put two sentences together that don't involve the words 'imma' and 'grits' (or whatever)".

I had noticed, and I might be wrong, that Moslim is being used as a dog whistle by right wing racist teabagging scumpuppies. The use of the word Moslim does not make one a racist teabagging scumpuppy.

I don't doubt that some people know the distinction and use the term 'Moslem' knowingly, and that some even use it as your dog-whistle, but I suspect that the majority are just ignorant and/or dated.

I would agree as a guess. The number of people using which convention out of simple convention is unknown to me, but that's a plausible guess.

Aren't you getting a little disengenuous now, Greg?

No. This post is ages old and I did not bother rereading the comments just in case you might be assuming that I was.

I apologize for the heat of my passion last night.

And for your passion today, you'll do what?

You've utterly misread this conversation and made a fool of yourself. Too bad, it seems like you might have had something interesting to say. No one is going to take your comments seriously, though.


Concerning my second post, ... I may be ignorant...


(Obnoxious content removed by the blog owner)

Eddie, thanks for the comments, that will be all. You are done here.

Interesting blog experiment.
Some non Muslims may be using the term Moslem with a bias.
But, the term Moslem is not offensive to Muslims.
Moslem means the same as Muslim as this term can be found in the Quran. This word is not a slur.
Its just a different older spelling of the same word.
So maybe this is why the older US based racist are more often using an older version of the word?

It should have been obvious by your calling anybody who cares about the fiscal state of this country a "teabagging anti-Obama racist scumpuppies" that there wasn't going to be a lot of intelligent thought put into this topic..

So, let me help cure your ignorance. Moslem is simply an older variation on the spelling of the word.

"right wing racist teabagging scumpuppies..." Yessir. Nothing hateful about that particular locution.

I weep for the days when people could disagree without resorting to schoolyard name-calling tactics.

Stan, are you suggesting that I should like or even be indifferent to racist teabagger scumpuppies? If so, why is that?

I weep for the days when people could disagree without resorting to schoolyard name-calling tactics.

If this was about "disagreeing" then I might agree with you. But thanks for your concern.

There are many anti-Moslem sites on facebook. Would you please help me fight them? All you have to do is hit "report this page" and it will be sent to the facebook authorities.You might also ask the higher-ups at facebook why these groups are still there.They have been reported countless times!

What these groups are doing is not an excercize in freedom of speech; they are hate groups, pure and simple.Please help me fight them.

Here is a sample of one of them, and it has links to many hate groups:!/pages/Fuck-Islam/216739975020037

Let's get this garbage off of facebook!

May I repectfully disagree with you on the word "Moslem"? As a child, I lived in Libya for three years and "Moslem" was always used and was the accepted word for those who practiced Islam.

But suffice it to say that I am vehemently opposed to those bigoted fools who attack Islam. as my next post will reaveal.Should you choose to print my following comment, feel free to use the word "Muslim". As long as my point gets across, it does not matter to me.

This is one of the most anger filled bias blogs I've ever seen and the author is actually defending his childish behavior; which, makes it even worse. Someone please take the keyboard away from this kid before he hurts himself. First off, there is nothing derogatory at all about the word Moslem; you're just using it as a lame excuse to get pissed off towards a particular group of people you refuse to understand, I believe the term for this is bigotry.

I've lived in various nations all over the Middle-East and have seen it both ways. You should heed to StanM's comment before you continue being one of those bitter/ignorant individuals that you are on here crying about.

Muslim is the term Muslims use themselves; Moslem has been a British/American term and now increasingly being used by Jew Islamophobes.

Etymologically, the word Muslim is derived from Islam. Pronounciation wise the letter "s" in both the words is a soft "s" as in the word soft.

The Islamophobes use the term Moslem and the "s" sound is akin to that of "z"; it makes it harsh and ugly sounding; and that is exactly the impression the Islamophobes are trying desperately to create about Islam and Muslims.


Aurangzeb Khan

By Aurangzeb Khan (not verified) on 12 Jul 2011 #permalink

From a research perspective, I think that your conclusions are rather flawed. From the words you use, it appears that you consider the spelling 'moslem' to be a signal of hatred. That conclusion is not entirely valid as the spelling 'moslem' was once quite common in the western world.

It would be more appropriate to conclude that people who use the spelling 'moslem' have not bothered to educate themselves about Islam and the people who practice it. If you follow that thought through, you could reach a more interesting conclusion - ignorance about Islam has a strong correlation with anti-Islamic ideas.

If you reach that conclusion, there is actually a point of hope. The key to ending Islamophobia is education - if we can end ignorance, we can end a lot of the crap that plagues our modern world.

I agree with Post 1. I am 48 years old and when I was in elementary school, I first remeber reading the words moslem and minaret and mosque in my social studies book. I believe this was the 4th grade which would have been school year 1972-1973. There was nothing political in the stuff; it was simply introducing a new religion in another part of the world to us. So, simply, 40 years or so ago, moslem was a common term. Indeed, when muslim started to be used, I wondered why when we had the more commonly used moslem. I suspect it was because of Muhammed Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabar in the 1970s and 1980s who used the term muslim that the media began to transition to muslim, which also would have been politically correct and was becoming the fashion by the late 1980s.

By An Old Guy (not verified) on 23 Aug 2011 #permalink

"Moslem" in arabic means "cruel or evil oppressor" That was their meaning but the Moslems encouraged us to use the more gentle "muslim" as it means "devoted to God." They were right the first time.

By David Israel (not verified) on 28 Sep 2011 #permalink

It's always so nice when ignorance and bigotry show up together. You do know that this is an Arabic word we borrowed, right? There is just the one word in Arabic with two English spellings. That word means "one who submits to God."

One of the English spellings results in a pronunciation that invokes (but isn't the same as) an entirely different Arabic word meaning "oppressor." The other is pronounced more in line with the Arabic original. We still get the pronunciation wrong, but it's closer. If you choose the older, less accurate pronunciation in order to call names, well, that's just you being an ass.

I haven't read the whole thread, so if this is a repeat, sorry about that.

We all do know, right, that the Arabic alphabet does not use vowels? So Muslim and Moslem are exactly the same word.

By hoary puccoon (not verified) on 29 Sep 2011 #permalink

Hoary, this post is about Muslim vs Moslem, which are two different english renditions. Differetn. Renditions. In a language with vowels! English has vowels in it's lettering system!

Say you were teaching an anatomy class for high schoolers and there is a brain part called "corpus nigra" (which there is) But in the South, "nigger" is pronounced "nigrah" ... So the corpus nigra has an alternative name ... dark body. So, you have the choice, in your high school in Greenville Texas to call something the equivalent of "Corups Nigger" vs. "Dark Body" ....

It would be rude and disruptive, racist and disrespectful, and just overall being a dick to not use "dark body" as the term of choice for the class.

If Moslem is such an offensive word, I doubt the following website would exist:

There wouldn't be an American Moslem Society.

Nobody is arguing that Abraham being spelled Ibrahim is anti-semitic (which is actually correctly applied to a family of languages, not people of a specific religion).

Is Salaam just an offensive way to say Shalom? Is Shaitan an offensive way to say Satan?

I can't believe this crap.

p.s. Niggardly is not a racist word.

Thank you for this interesting article. I'm actually a Muslim so maybe I can add a little.

First of all, no Muslim is really going to be offended if you call them a Moslem though they might pre-judge or correct you. For example in Indonesia, the worlds most populous Muslim country, Moslem is normally used instead of Muslim.

However, I think that the author is correct that it is the context the word is used in and the fact that it is a 'dog whistle' as you call it. When I see the world Moslem being used I know that the writer is either a) Indonesian or b) one of the anti-Muslim-Obama-Birther-young-earth types. Normally it's the latter...

I've actually been writing on the 'phenomenon' of how all the anti-Muslim/anti-Obama/anti-evolution/anti-liberal etc stuff all ties together. You can bet that if you go on an anti-Obama site for example, there will be some anti-Muslim stuff there too probably paired with some anti-liberal stuff. Your observations will be make a good addition. Personally I think it has a lot to do with the fact that the 'reds' are now gone and that a certain part of the population needs an enemy. The anti-communist rhetoric is pretty much identical to the stuff we see now, just a few words and concepts switched.

With Peace


"If Moslem is such an offensive word, I doubt the following website would exist:"

Sorry, in an internet where exists (do NOT go there), you cannot use the existence of a website as "proof" of inoffensiveness of a word...

You are a douche. You write as if everyone reading it is inferior to you. You write as if you are superior to everyone else. FUCK you asshole.

Oh look, Internet Trolls may have teamed up with Go Daddy to make a comment that will make me feel bad.

I was reading this article for some research and I wanted to get more details and found a link for the History News Network.

It states the following:

"When Baby Boomers were children it was Moslem. The American Heritage Dictionary (1992) noted,"Moslem is the form predominantly preferred in journalism and popular usage. Muslim is preferred by scholars and by English-speaking adherents of Islam." No more. Now, almost everybody uses Muslim.

According to the Center for Nonproliferation Studies,"Moslem and Muslim are basically two different spellings for the same word." But the seemingly arbitrary choice of spellings is a sensitive subject for many followers of Islam. Whereas for most English speakers, the two words are synonymous in meaning, the Arabic roots of the two words are very different. A Muslim in Arabic means"one who gives himself to God," and is by definition, someone who adheres to Islam. By contrast, a Moslem in Arabic means"one who is evil and unjust" when the word is pronounced, as it is in English, Mozlem with a z."

I have wondered about this myself. When I was growing up no one used the term "Muslim." Everyone, including the Moslems, referred to themselves as "Moslems." I think it's similar to Peking vs. Beijing. I think it's about a pedantic attempt to pronounce foreign terms more correctly. I use "Moslem" and will continue to do so because I see "Muslim" as going a bit overboard, just like people who try to pronounce all Spanish placenames exactly as Spanish speakers do. So lighten up.

Lion, it might be that people prefer Muslim over Moslim. It does not matter what your reasons for saying it the way people don't prefer, it would still be offensive. it could be that you are the one who must ligthen up.

By Clay Oertel (not verified) on 15 Sep 2012 #permalink

"While perusing an old bookshelf (the books were old, not the shelf) my girlfriend and I discovered a book of world religions with the term “Mohammedanism” in it. This term was once quite frequently used, from what I’ve gathered" - Jared

Just wanted to point out that the word used to describe people who follow Islam is Muslim in the Quran. Mohammedanism is not a word that Muslims use to describe themselves, it is a western tag. Muslims find the term abusive.

In Arabic, in the Quran, the word is spelled out, and pronounced as Muslim. The sound is of the letter S, not Z, as is pronounced in Moslem. As far as I know, no matter which language you speak or which country you associate with any spellings of the word, the original spelling comes from Arabic, and thus it is Muslim. I do not have any issues with Moslem other than wondering why people cannot say Muslim when their tongues permit them to form words like mousse, Mustafa and Moustache.It is offensive because it sounds like a deliberate conversion, and based on ignorance of the Arabic origin or perhaps in spite of the muslims. However, I would also add that the Arabic word for Moses is Musa (pronounced Moosaa), so maybe just like Musa became Moses, Muslim became Moslem. But that said, please say Muslim, it is easy! :)

no you are lieing im moslem and american are doing these works ffuck your mother americans

I'm so sick of everrytime there is a coment about Muslims all liberals insist on calling conserve racist u people are pathetic and are probably takers and not givers. And make no mistake the dems are the racist and have always been . After all look at all the Congress. Dems that were k like senator Byrd of wv people to to study your history. Dens always take from the working and give to the lazy just for votes

I think the thing here is where these people are getting their information. For instance, if you go to Hugh Trevor Roepers "Rise of Christian Europe", you will see it spelled Moslem. I do not mean to slander Roeper, he was a good writer, but this book is 60 years old, and quite dated in its assumptions.

"Muslim" has replaced "Moslem" because it is a closer transliteration to Arabic pronunciation (mu-SLIM). Kind of like Peking/Beijing. So I guess the people who stick to the old spelling also don't really care about how the people they are describing actually use the word? Frankly, they sound like the people who would pronounce "Italian" with a long I. Of course, they would do the same for Iraq and Iran.

So what!! So people from the middle east are offended. What else is new. They are some of the most intolerant people on the planet.
Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson had to deal with the pirates!! Moslem/Muslim/Islamist are uncivilized and have not evolved, even a little!!

By jollyhollyjo (not verified) on 27 Sep 2013 #permalink

I was unable to replicate your results in 2013, which is to be expected, but the search term 'Moslem' yielded positive and negative search results at approximately the same frequency as the term 'Muslim.'

One group that came up near the top was the American Moslem Society.

Correction: the frequency for 'Moslem' was much lower, but the distribution of the total as far as "positive, neutral, and negative" goes was approximately the same.

I always said "Muslim," (MUZ-LIM) until a year or so ago when became friends with two sisters who practice Islam. Both say MOSS-LEM, and from the way that they pronounced it I just assumed "Moslem" was the more accurate spelling. It kind of seems like Americans just tend use the "z" sound instead of soft "s".. (E.g., Americans would pronounce the name "Asna" as "AHZ-NA" rather than "AHSS-NA," and "MIZ-BAH" rather than "MISS-BAH.")

By Maria Caterina (not verified) on 02 Mar 2014 #permalink

This is one of the most intelligent comment threads I've seen on such an issue. Less PC than I would expect. Congratulations on a scientific point of view.

One thing that may have influenced usage in the seventies was the Black Muslims. They were portrayed as a threatening development to mainstream society and the word "Muslim" acquired a kind of 1960s revolutionary ring and also evoked race prejudice. That may explain how right wing groups almost instinctively settled on the word "Moslem". It was "our" word for them instead of "theirs", that alone is a reason to use it.

In Leon Uris's The Hag, it is spelled Moslem. I wondered why and stumbled on this diatribe. I thinks is just an old fashioned way of spelling and not offensive.

It was an old fashion way, yes. That is not especially related to recent use, however.

In searching for real, insightful information on this subject, I am very disappointed by your blog. Not only does it give inaccurate information on the differences between Muslim and Moslem, you lost all credibility and respect by immediately denigrating a group of Americans with whom you disagree, which frankly, has nothing to do with the topic at hand. In your sad attempt to pacify Muslims you freely cast stones against your American neighbors, which is not only anti-American, it is political correctness run amok. In reading some of the responses, it seems your readers are also sheople who willingly follow the path of least resistance by offering negative diatribe out of personal and ignorant bias, rather than providing substantive commentary that brings us all closer to the truth. Any positive commentary is lost in the cesspool of hate and ignorance by those who attempt to demonstrate superiority over others with meaningless rhetoric. Frankly, I wonder why you even bother with your blog if positive contribution isn't the goal. You lost me from the start.

By Guy Stephenson (not verified) on 05 Feb 2015 #permalink

Thank you for your comment. I am very sorry you are lost.

The spelling Moslem was used commonly in the late 1700's and into the 1800's.

My pronunciation may be wrong but I have always pronounced Muslim ( Muzlem) with the u sounding like the u in must. And I have Moslem ( Mozlem) with the o sounding like the o in moss. I speak American English. And it is the way I learned, it has nothing to do with wether I like or dislike people who practice Islam.

I read all the comments.I have been mispronouncing the word Muslim. That was very educational, I am glad I know the correct pronunciation now. Thank you. But Greg I do have to agree with a couple of the people who commented. If offensive things are written in your blog, it automatically puts people on the defense and that does cause for some of the ugly words in some of these comments.also it put liberals and conservatives on the same low level of jabs,mudslinging,etc... and that makes it hard to get the real point across because of the offense/ defense human instinct wins. I am sure you know Freuds ID, ego and super ego. Well the way people use words can trigger either the ID or the ego. And when words trigger the ID all the ego is wiped out. And the important point is lost.


What are the chances your middle name is bin?

By Brian Williams (not verified) on 11 Feb 2015 #permalink

What, you don't remember?

You do realize that English spelling of Arabic words and names are phonetic, i.e., based on Arabic pronunciation of the word. This is what accounts for variations in the spelling of Islamic names and words, e.g., Muhammad, Mohamed, Mohammed or Qur'an, Koran or Kufr, Kuffar, etc.

What a lot of nonsense. I know a lot of people who have nothing to do with the Tea Party or even the United States who use the spelling 'Moslem'. Strangely enough, no one has issue with 'Turkey' and they haven't switched 'Turkye' and so on. The word 'Moslem' can be found in the Cambridge Dictionary so I use it. And have used this spelling all my life; like many other people. It's simply a transliteration. Period.

By Peter O'Malley (not verified) on 10 Nov 2015 #permalink

It’s simply a transliteration. Period.
...except when it's intentionally being used as a political dog whistle. Period.

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 11 Nov 2015 #permalink

I was about to ask Peter if he realized that "Moslem" is typically viewed to be offensive, but then I realized
a) he probably does
b) that's why he defends its use

Indeed, case closed. However, the conclusion that is apparent may not be the one the author intended. Mr. Laden here was raising the issue with the term "Moslem," which I encountered or noticed for the first time rather recently and I wanted to know about it. I had seen it before of course, but certainly not frequently and in the earlier instances I wrote it off as misspellings. However, after noticing it a couple more times, I knew people had to be using the term purposefully. Thus, seeking answers, I found myself on this website. I pretty much gathered right from the start that I wasn't going to get any real, in depth, useful information. This occurred to me for a couple reasons. First, Mr. Laden implies that to use the word "Moslem" suggests that you're a person or persons that are "teabagging anti-Obama racist scumpuppies." In doing so, Mr. Laden eloquently presents himself in the perfect position of moral superiority to be able to give lessons on the proper and improper uses of rhetoric. Second, I can't help but see a little irony in the fact that Mr. Laden, being an apparent atheist, uses an argument of or from omniscience to determine that if you write "Moslem" you're a "teabagging anti-Obama racist scumpuppy." Thus, each person who uses "Moslem" is not only a tea party member, but they also are attempting to, or wishing to, negate Obama. Oh, also, they're racist, and a . . . well, scumpuppy, which must be some form of derogatory term based on a late 90's Nu Metal band or something. I'm not entirely sure on that one. Thirdly, let us examine the tools of his own scientific endeavor into account. This is the great unbiased scientific tool that is Google. Then there was the application of terms, "Muslim" and "Moslem," as well as "blogs." The author also selectively chose his methods of terms and variables, that Google might be more likely to procure for Mr. Laden the desired result. I hypothesize that Mr. Laden would continue to manipulate the variables, if the data did not produce the result he already presupposed. This presupposition, or "gut feeling," is already expressed by Mr. Laden's own admission. However, all this being said, I do agree somewhat with Mr. Laden's conclusion. Yet, didn't I just say that the article was useless? Well, yes. However, I concede some might find some use in it. Particularly if you're one of those into gut feelings, a lot of links, blogs and Google searches being touted as "research" and, of course, insults, insults, insults. I guess its not like I found it completely devoid of use, I myself am going to browse iTunes for "Scumpuppy" later. I agree with Mr. Laden but only generally. I simply can't know if everyone who writes "moslem" belongs to the tea party, is anti-Obama, racist and a fan of 90's Nu Metal. For instance, there could be older or elderly individuals who habitually refer to "moslems" instead of "muslims" because that was how it was referred to in the past (if we are to suppose that they're all conservatives, the very nature of conservativism suggests that they hang on to traditions). Further, some may be British, I hear its more prevalent there than in the US, or perhaps they're making a distinction between true Muslims and terrorist Moslems. :) At any rate, this entry is void of any real information such as the following description concerning the difference of the two: "A Muslim in Arabic means 'one who gives himself to God,' and is by definition, someone who adheres to Islam. By contrast, a Moslem in Arabic means 'one who is evil and unjust.'" Many people might not even be aware of that, so how much more important is it that people are communicated knowledge like this. There were even Muslim organizations in the past which had to switch from having "Moslem" to "Muslim" in their title. Lastly, if people who say "Moslem" are "teabagging anti-Obama racist scumpuppies," what then, since Mr. Laden calls Christians "Kristians," would we call him?


By Linda Ann Reyn… (not verified) on 31 Jul 2016 #permalink

Well all of you are wrong. Sorry.

Muslim is as every one knows, but Moslem is a person who follows the circle of 7 and you will find a ring with a circle crossed at four edges and number 7 in the middle. Their faith follows a different course. So are you a Muslim or a Moslem. you should know, it's just not another word or different spelling.

Grandiose ignorance is scary. But then I am such kb was in Teheran, Iran in 1978 when the Shaw of Iran was murdered along with all American Supporters, such as my entire family on my mother's side!!!! Moselum was the correct spelling of that faith just as Teheran Is the correct spelling of the Capitol of Iran. Anyone can google any crap they want, but the Truth is now changeable by people who say they do t like the way history is written. Incidentally, history is usually recorded by the winners, and Truth is a Variable at best.

By Linda Ann Reyn… (not verified) on 27 Aug 2016 #permalink

In reply to by KB (not verified)