Recently, The Associated Press (AP) emailed an update to its online Stylebook subscribers about revisions to the recommended use of the term "Islamist" by media professionals. (The AP Stylebook is perhaps the most influential publication of its type and impacts coverage worldwide.)
Late last year, CAIR had approached AP about modifying the reference, which read at that time:
"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."
CAIR suggested that AP change its Stylebook to incorporate language similar to that used in the reference to "fundamentalist," which states that the label should not be used unless a group applies the term to itself.
Earlier this year, CAIR urged media outlets to drop the term because, "Unfortunately, the term 'Islamist' has become shorthand for 'Muslims we don't like.'"
In its Thursday email, AP modified the "Islamist" reference to read:
"An advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam. Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists. Where possible, be specific and use the name of militant affiliations: al-Qaida-linked, Hezbollah, Taliban, etc. Those who view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians to militants known as jihadi."
We believe this revision is a step in the right direction and will result in fewer negative generalizations in coverage of issues related to Islam and Muslims. The key issue with the term "Islamist" is not its continued use; the issue is its use almost exclusively as an ill-defined pejorative.
What do you think?
Email comments to me at: ihooper[at]cair.com