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ISLAM-OPED: Media Urged to Drop Term 'Islamist' in New Year

CAIR, an Islamic Civil rights group active in Orange County, is urging the media and the public to be more judicious in how they describe Islamic public officials.

Ibrahim Hooper is national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties organization with an active branch in Orange County. 

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."

The Associated Press (AP) added the term to its influential Stylebook in 2012. That entry reads: "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."

The AP says it sought input from Arabic-speaking experts and hoped to provide a neutral perspective by emphasizing the "wide range" of religious views encompassed in the term.

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."

Unfortunately, the term "Islamist" has become shorthand for "Muslims we don't like." It is currently used in an almost exclusively pejorative context and is often coupled with the term "extremist," giving it an even more negative slant.

There are few, if any, positive references to "Islamist" in news articles. There are also no -- nor should there be -- references to "Christianists," "Judaists" or "Hinduists" for those who would similarly seek governments "in accord with the laws" of their respective faiths.

No journalist would think of referring to the "Judaist government of Israel," the "Christianist leader Rick Santorum" or "Hinduist Indian politician Narendra Modi," while use of "Islamist" has become ubiquitous. It might be an interesting exercise to hold a contest, the winner of which would be the first to find a positive mainstream media reference to "Islamist."

Quite likely, such a contest would end up being similar to a unicorn hunt.

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.

Islam-bashers routinely use the term to disingenuously claim they only hate "political" Islam, not the faith itself. Yet they fail to explain how a practicing Muslim can be active in the political arena without attracting the label "Islamist."

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.

That is hardly fair or balanced.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK IN THE COMMENTS

Kathi January 18, 2013 at 09:41 AM
I have another question that I wonder about. I know that in Islam, Mohammed is considered a prophet & the most revered figure in Islam. But 1 thing that puzzles me is that Muslims consider it blasphemy to speak ill of the prophet who is not considered to be God, but yet it seems as though he is treated as god the way it is called blasphemy to do something that is considered an insult to the prophet. Could you explain that? I've never quite understood it. 1 example in I think it was Afghanistan, there was a British primary school teacher who brought I think it was a teddy bear to class for the young children who were about 1st grade or so, maybe even kindergarten. She thought it would be nice for the children to name it so she asked them what to call it. So they chose their favorite name, Mohammed. She did not realize how some parents or authorities would react to what would seem very innocent to us. She was jailed for I think it was insulting the prophet. She was kept in jail for a time before her release & not sure whether it was deportation or voluntarily leaving. This was not long ago--in the last year or 2.
the brave and noble one January 26, 2013 at 03:52 PM
Kathi, regarding the actions and situations of the Islamic countries, it's sad to say majority of them are completely against the teachings of Islam. It's a fact that there is no such thing as nationalism and only defending one's own country, as a Muslims and leaders they have duties towards the weaker, and the weak and poor have their share of rights on them. It's truly a pathetic state they are in, but again all this our prophet had said years back, this was to come, where we will be in such a state. But it is wrong to look at the Islamic countries, their rules their actions, and think its has anything to do with what the prophet had taught us and the previous leaders. My be they do use some things from the rules in islam but it has its propcess, they have levels, u dont just pick from anywhere and apply those rules. there is a concept to things. Due to majority of the Muslims being ignorant or completely unaware of it, lack of knowledge regarding their religion the way it was taught is why there is so much misunderstandings and chaos. and Reason why they are people out there claiming to be Muslims and using the quraan and the prophet to justify their actions. So if anyone wants to know about the teachings of Islam, he should start with their basic teachings, and most importantly its history, how the first leaders and lead, cuz they had the proper knowledge, directly from the prophet.
the brave and noble one January 26, 2013 at 04:33 PM
Kathi, yes the prophet Muhammad , is regarded as the most revered person to us his people, till the last day, everyone who is to come is part of his ummah/nation. It is due his endless sacrifices for us and love for his people that people love him as such, those who understand. No prophet had sacrificed as much as he for his nation, and he still will even after death when we gather in front of Allah, he will be the only one capable of helping us. Due to these we love him as we do. Though the way people portray their love and emotions is a different story, there are teachings of that as well, and restrictions as well. And as I stated b4 due to ignorance not many know how, which leads to these violent actions. Which are not part of the teachings of our prophet.if that was the case then our prophet would not have spared all the inhabitants of Makkah when he had finally conquered it, even though they had tortured him for 13 years, his friends family members, and drove them out their houses. In fact mercy and tolerance is one of the major attributes a Muslim should have, There is no place where we are taught that we can harm the innocent or any who has nothing to do with it. And those who do, there are teachings to that also in regards of dealing with them, and probably surprising to many but logic and reasoning plays a major role in Islam, it always has the rules are based off them.
the brave and noble one January 26, 2013 at 05:13 PM
Kathi, they did not have the bible with them? 0_o what about the ones who are knowledgable regarding the bible, the popes and priests they weren't amongst the people? It wouldn't make much sense saying the army of crusaders it being a religious act defending their religion when they do not have access to the bible and it's knowledge and the teachings of Jesus? Those who have gone in depth in the study of the bile, it's a known fact that the recent one are not the exact words or teachings of the ancient and old ones. And yes the verses you have put, I don't understand how it ended up being a invisible spirit that one is just suppose to feel it to guide him, when u have a last prophet who has come with a divine book, that verifies and and accepts all the previous prophets including Jesus, and does not lower their statuses and miracles in any regard? I don't understand really.
the brave and noble one January 26, 2013 at 05:29 PM
Kathi, it seems that you are acquainted with the bible so I wanted to know what the bible says regarding women, in general, if there are any parts just regarding them and their rights and duties, and what it says

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