The Council on American Islamist Relations (CAIR) demanded the media drop the term “Islamist” in a commentary piece today from communications director Ibrahim Hooper, ISLAM-OPED: Media Urged to Drop Term ‘Islamist’ in New Year.
In it, Hooper laments that the term “Islamist” is “used in an almost exclusively pejorative context” and unfairly labels any politically active Muslim with the term.
Hooper appears to be reacting to the term’s incorporation in 2012 into the AP Stylebook, the style manual for journalists, as follows:
Islamist — Supporter of government in accord with the laws of Islam. Those who view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians to militants known as jihadi.
Hooper writes that it is unfair that while those influenced by the Bible are likely to be called “Good Samaritans,” those following the Qu’ran are called “Islamists”:
As many people make promises to themselves to improve their lives or their societies in the coming year, here is a suggested New Year’s resolution for media outlets in America and worldwide: Drop the term “Islamist.”…Many Muslims who wish to serve the public good are influenced by the principles of their faith. Islam teaches Muslims to work for the welfare of humanity and to be honest and just. If this inspiration came from the Bible, such a person might well be called a Good Samaritan. But when the source is the Quran, the person is an “Islamist.”…The frequent linkage of the term “Islamist” to violence and denial of religious and human rights is also strongly promoted by Islamophobic groups and individuals who seek to launch rhetorical attacks on Islam and Muslims, without the public censure that would normally accompany such bigoted attacks on any other faith.
As I recall, the term “Islamist” was substituted for “Muslims” in order to distinguish those practicing a religion (Muslims) from those seeking a political ends based on the religion (Islamists). By claiming that “Islamist” smears all Muslims, Hooper incorrectly rejects the definition put forth by the AP–and the definition I would argue that is common usage.
He ends the piece with a second instruction, that if the media chooses not to stop using “Islamist,” they should only use it if if a group first uses it to describe themselves:
If the term is retained, media professionals should modify its use to reflect language similar to that used in the AP Stylebook reference to “fundamentalist,” which states that the label should not be used unless a group applies the term to itself. By not dropping or modifying use of the term, the media are making a political and religious value judgment each time it is used.
Hooper is attempting cover up the failure of political Islam to be perceived as positive by attacking those who use a term to describe it.
(See also Joel’s earlier piece questioning whether the AP suggests “the Prophet” precede mentions of “Mohammed.”)