Wednesday, November 09, 2005

"Hajji"

In Vietnam, it was Charlie. In Iraq, the enemy is known as "Hajji"---a word loaded with connotation and implication. From this AP report:
As the patrol set off on its six-hour mission, the soldiers of the 467th scanned the road for any sign of hidden bombs, no mean feat in a country where garbage, soft drink bottles, plastic containers and other debris litter the highways.

The troops also watch for telltale signs such as potholes and irregularities in the pavement either a sloppy repaving job or a sign that insurgents buried an IED in the road overnight.

"Hajji is greedy," said Hill, using the soldiers' nickname for the insurgents, taken from the term for a pilgrim to Mecca. "He wants to be as close to the road as possible" when placing bombs.
We seem determined to do everything possible to give ammunition to those who would accuse us of waging war against Islam.

If this was a defensive war instead of an unprovoked invasion, would using an important religious term as a slur be an issue?

110 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone really know the origin of the use of Hajii to reference Iraqi's/Insurgents?

I have no proof, but I've always assumed that the term originated with one of the character from the old "Johnny Quest" cartoon that was popular when I was young - you may recall that Johnnie's companion was a turbaned (Indian, Pakistani, I'm not sure that the series ever made his origin clear) boy named 'hadji'.

To me that seems a more likely origin for a term of disparagement than a term of religious significance.

11/09/2005 8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajj

11/09/2005 9:41 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

CR-

Perhaps the term will give offense to Muslims. Can't argue with that.

But I fail to see how soldiers using the term have anything to do with "We" giving "ammunition to those who would accuse us of waging war against Islam."

I know your suggestion is to get out immediately. But short of that, what do you advise? A directive to all soldiers that they are to cease calling the enemy "hajji"?

11/10/2005 11:55 AM  
Blogger St!ff M!ttens said...

I tend to agree with the Johnny Quest theory of origin. It seems more likely to me that this nickname derives from the common soldiery borrowing pop culture memes to generate slang jargon for the sake of playful camaraderie rather than a calculated, malicious slam on Islam. Ill-advised and insensitive, sure... but deliberately inflammatory?

11/10/2005 12:06 PM  
Anonymous Peter VE said...

But does Hajji surf?

11/10/2005 4:47 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

You make an important point.

That is about all I can say now. I've been mulling this over for a while.

11/10/2005 5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's no unpacking the source of the term. I tried to get my soldiers to stop saying it. I might as have tried to get them to stop blinking. And apart from the way-deep-inside-ComiCon types, I don't know a G.I. who has heard of "Johnny Quest." Johnny Bravo, yes; Johnny Carson, maybe. Johnny Quest -- ohhhhhh, yeah. That's Old School, sir.

So the Haji thing there is merely a cultural coincidence.

Incidentally, the troops use "Haji" for all of the "TCNs" (Third-Country Nationals) -- Begalis, Filipinos, Indians, etc. -- who do the ash-and-trash jobs on the bases as well.

If you're not white, and you're not a black American, and you're in the Middle East, you're a Haji.

And, no -- Haji don't surf. Except in Kuwait and Qatar.

11/11/2005 2:18 PM  
Anonymous Colin said...

And in WWII we called them Krauts and Nips. Big deal.

BTW, I wonder which offends Muslim sensibilities more -- use of the term Hajji or blowing up mosques with people inside as the "resistance" did today in Iraq?

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