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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

Dale Roley January 07, 2013 at 08:51 PM
Larry I wouldnt call yourself a Dumb Ass.
Jamiela January 08, 2013 at 06:36 PM
What religion, pray tell, are you even talking about? Perhaps you should actually read some of the laws in the Quran before posting a comment, as all of the actions you just mentioned are condemned in the quran. I think you have your religions or lack thereof mixed up. Muslims are not allowed to coerce others to convert to Islam. Rape or even sex before marriage is not allowed. Should I go on? Or can you open a Quran yourself and have a good look through it for to clear up the rest of your misconceptions about Islam? Get your facts straight, dude.
Jamiela January 08, 2013 at 06:56 PM
I'm sorry, but are you same person that just condemned rapists and pedophiles? You cannot accept everybody as they are. In the Quran, God Almighty teaches us how to behave ourselves. There is condemnation of others who behave badly, not hatred. You cannot accept certain kinds of bad behaviour. It infringes on the basic human rights of society. The Quran is the last word in a line of revelations given to the prophets( peace be with them all). Of course it will have parables or lessons from the prophets who have come before. Muslims are required to believe in All God's messengers and prophets. The bible is edited or 'updated' quite often and so God has retold these stories in the Quran so we can get the stories 'straight' and to reinforce the Laws in the Quran also, I would think. Peace be with you
JoAnne Van Datta January 08, 2013 at 10:08 PM
I am grateful for all those who patiently read my comment and thoughtfully disageed. It is now painfully obvious that increased global interaction isn't necessarily an inspiration to multicultural understanding and acceptance. After all, our individual beliefs rely primarily on our personal experience which can't help but be relatively limited. I have been fortunate. I was allowed to think for myself, pursue several cultural, scientific and spiritual experiences and studies, and most of all, have been blessed with friends from nearly every continent, faith, ethnic background and political opinion. I've learned some very simple facts. One is that we are here for a short time. Another is we all need to feel loved and safe. Some of us are more opinionated than others and feel safer that way--more in control. Beyond that, it is way more pleasant and fun and creative to learn, love and work together than to fear, hate and be cruel and aggressive. I hope the powers that be in this beautiful but brutal world will apprehend this before it's too late, and guide us into a healthy appreciation of positive human potential. We, and our grandchildren would enjoy it. It's pretty clear that has been the core message of the wisest among us over thousands of years. But I guess there's something about big sticks, egos and guns that keeps us enslaved to authoritarianism, bigotry and war.ugh.
JoAnne Van Datta January 09, 2013 at 12:24 AM
To mfriedritch: it' a dilemma of human behavior, consciousness and imagination, as far as I can tell.
Larry A. Singleton January 09, 2013 at 01:04 AM
Go to this link and see your "Islam" and "multiculteralism" in action: http://shaystar.com/nigeria-students-tortured-burned-to-death/ I'm wondering if you have the courage of your convictions to fly to Africa and discuss your all-inclusiveness with Boko Haram or the "holy man" who ordered these brutal murders. Have you watched any of these videos with your "religion of peace" in action?
MFriedrich January 09, 2013 at 02:21 AM
JoAnne, I suggest that people take the time with an open mind to read the scriptures of these texts and what they say and judge for themselves. I did. i found many pages to be soaked with blood, genocide, torture, subjugation and slavery. There are no doubt good passages, but the volume of cruelty and horror drowns it out. As for interfaith and interdisciplinary understanding, we can find common ground on certain areas, I'm sure. But this is the exception in 21st century society, not the rule. For example, Americans will never agree with (Surah Al-Baqara 2:282) where the testimony of two women is required in place of 1 male witness. This is absurd misogyny and not an example of human flourishing. But you can find plenty of Islam mullah's to rationalize the dogma and scripture: http://www.islamic-sharia.org/general/on-the-testimony-of-women-2.html
MFriedrich January 09, 2013 at 02:37 AM
"if you truly want to understand the Quraan by yourself, then it is not possible to do so" Are we to believe that Allah, the one and only true all-powerful and omniscient god, had a critical, time-sensitive, and imperative message to be revealed to all humans on the planet earth including infidels, and including anyone not within earshot of the Muslim culture, and then decided to package and deliver this message in written form in a complex prose that is borderline incomprehensible, and in a complex language (Arabic), and through a conduit such as the tribal peoples of the central Middle East? So Allah had the Arabic speaking peoples in mind for his holy message first (Arabic, Arabia peninsula), everyone else gets the info second, third, fourth and fifth hand at best? And he had this entire religious dogma and divine plan with Arab culture in mind all along? If I told you my god delivered his latest revelation to a shopping mall crowd in Ames, Iowa, you'd no doubt think my belief asburd and obscene. Yet you grasp onto this 7th century account with no question whatsoever. I'm sorry, but I find this belief that Allah is Arabic solipsistic, arrogant, ridiculous and self-centered.
MFriedrich January 09, 2013 at 02:45 AM
Here are my favorite Quran verses when I need a little pick-me-up. Also great for bedtime reading to young children: "Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside them whom ye know not." Quran 8:60 "Lo! Those who disbelieve Our revelations, We shall expose them to the Fire. As often as their skins are consumed We shall exchange them for fresh skins that they may taste the torment." Quran 4:56 "Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds ... And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain." Quran 47:4 "They long that ye should disbelieve even as they disbelieve, that ye may be upon a level (with them). So choose not friends from them till they forsake their homes in the way of Allah; if they turn back (to enmity) then take them and kill them wherever ye find them, and choose no friend nor helper from among them." Quran 4:89 My favorite Holy Bible verse: "And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend." Jeremiah 19:9 Sweet dreams kids! :)
the brave and noble one January 09, 2013 at 02:53 AM
it is saad to know one like you who have studied more than me in this field, but havent got the grasp of its meaning, and misunderstanding the concept of such things. you have skipped on the history of how islam spread by the non-muslim Unbiased historians? Europe would still be in the dark ages if it were not for the Golden Age of the muslim during that period in history, if its anything the west have benefited MUCH from the muslims if you look at history you cannot deny that. though islam was spread by force, it never had forced the people in those lands to convert, or kill off the week who had no part in the war, it wasnt like the crusades.
MFriedrich January 09, 2013 at 03:14 AM
I'm sure the Europeans owe a debt of gratitude to the Muslims for pulling them out of the dark ages I agree that the crusades were awful and horrific. And yes, the Muslims enjoyed a golden age of conquest and scientific inquiry, math and medicine. But does that in any way subtract from the ugliness and vile content within these passages? I don't think it does. Just so you know, I'm an equal opportunity reader. I consider the Bible to be far worse in terms of the amount of bloodshed, genocide, misogyny, rape, torture and slavery in it's verses.
MFriedrich January 09, 2013 at 03:17 AM
"but havent got the grasp of its meaning, and misunderstanding the concept of such things." What precisely am I misunderstanding about this verse? "Lo! Those who disbelieve Our revelations, We shall expose them to the Fire. As often as their skins are consumed We shall exchange them for fresh skins that they may taste the torment." Quran 4:56 I think it means what it says. Are you saying this verse says something different in Arabic? It's okay. I've studied that too. No. It doesn't. It says the exact same thing and you know it does.
the brave and noble one January 09, 2013 at 04:44 AM
okay so i c u have gotten the contribution in terms of things to the west, but you have skipped the moral lessons, social policies, the environment of its communities, the justice of the leaders from the begging? even in terms of war, it was nothing like the crusades, they had their set of rules they stuck to. rape, killing children, and the week and old were never part of it. no matter which land was taken.
the brave and noble one January 09, 2013 at 04:47 AM
haha, no i was speaking of islam in general its message, and the introduction to Allah. and this specific your asking for no, it has no other meaning cuz its speaking of Hell, you cant really expect it to be all rainbows and ponies now do you? the Qur-aan is to the point, and the hadiths and prophets teachings are explanations of what they mean, since it was revealed to him. which then was passed on till now.
MFriedrich January 09, 2013 at 05:06 AM
I think the verse shows that Islam is not a religion of peace re:infidels. i think it informs Muslim beliefs, informs their actions and stokes the fires of prejudice. It's part of a holy text considered infallible. So I could see such instruction serve as a permitted license to kill infidels. No, I don't expect rainbows and ponies from Islam, just winged horses like pegasus transporting its prophet into heaven ;) Everything in the Quran is so original.
the brave and noble one January 09, 2013 at 05:30 AM
-_- the verse is describing Hell, and its punishment, as i said you dont understand its rulings you misunderstand the meaning, and its amazing how one can avoid half of the message and just stick to the part he finds fit............................. =) i was referring to the ayat about hell you had quoted, and i am glad you find it so original, because believing in God, isnt just believing wat you see and logic, you have ur share of unseen things in that. ah you have forgot to mention the splitting of the moon, tsk
MFriedrich January 09, 2013 at 05:57 AM
Oh I understand perfectly that this is about killing non-believers and the tortures that await in Islamic hell by Allah. And I understand about faith and believing in the unseen and that which is contrary to nature, obsevation and evidence. But the verse man. Pretty awful and damning for infidels like me. I don't lose sleep over a hell that doesn't exist. But I do fear Muslims and Christians who wish to issue each other first class tickets to these hells after citing these horrific bronze age, man-made verses as justification.
Mamacita January 09, 2013 at 07:23 AM
Plain and simple! "islamist" = Christianist = Judaist! Any Christianist or Judaist who insist on calling Muslims who reject their terrorist imperialism of Muslim lands "islamist" should like wise describe them in return as such - i.e., Christianist or Judaist extremists. I've been doing that for years to any Christian or Zionist bigot who've attered this racist, despicable word that belittle Muslims. I recommend Muslims to refer to any Zionist and Christian hatefilled bigots as Christianist and Judaist.
Larry A. Singleton January 09, 2013 at 07:48 AM
Prof. Thomas F. Madden So what is the truth about the Crusades? Scholars are still working some of that out. But much can already be said with certainty. For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression—an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.” “That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.” “It is often assumed that the central goal of the Crusades was forced conversion of the Muslim world. Nothing could be further from the truth. From the perspective of medieval Christians, Muslims were the enemies of Christ and His Church. It was the Crusaders' task to defeat and defend against them. That was all.
Kathi January 18, 2013 at 02:09 AM
Jamiela, "The bible is edited or 'updated' quite often...." Actually the bible has new translations that come out, but that is NOT being edited or updated. Any legitimate translation says the same thing, just using a little bit different wording. These new translations are based on the original Hebrew (w a little bit of Aramaic) & Greek. Some are paraphrases but most are more literal translations. So actually the message is straight in the bible. & of course it has also been translated into about all of the major languages of the world & is being translated into other languages as well. God does not require us to learn a foreign language to understand His word.
the brave and noble one January 18, 2013 at 02:49 AM
i am more curious to know if you even believe in God?
the brave and noble one January 18, 2013 at 02:56 AM
defensive wars would mean for them to completely destroy everything that came on their paths relating to muslims? kill off the weak, innocent, women and children? the actions took during the crusades are definitely not the teachings of jesus and part of his character. and how are the muslims the enemies of christ when Jesus himself conveyed the message of one who will come after him to guide his people? instead of taking the actual meaning of his words, which is the last messenger, it had somehow turned into the holy spirit, i mean its quite funny how people say the new versions of the bible are just easier ways of translations of the old, than how come such important words could be changed? it has been happening even before the last prophet came.
Kathi January 18, 2013 at 03:03 AM
Dale, Jesus came to fulfill the OT law, not dispute it. He did dispute some of the added on rules that the rabbis had put in addition to what God had said in the OT. I would encourage you to read the bible, including the OT, but start in the NT. Jesus did fulfill the law so that NT believers are no longer bound by the OT law.
Kathi January 18, 2013 at 04:41 AM
the brave and noble one, The Crusades were in reaction to the onslaught of warring Islam into Europe. Apparently some were motivated by faith & others obviously motivated by other things. At that time the people did not have the bible really available to them, so it is likely that they were operating on a limited understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ. I do agree that the Crusades were contrary to the teachings of Jesus. However don't know where you get the idea that the words have been changed. The various versions of the bible are all translations from the original. John 14 & John 16 clearly speak of the comforter who will come "...Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt[a] in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. " (John 16:7-13) Which clearly ties the One who would come to the Spirit of Truth."
Kathi January 18, 2013 at 09:23 AM
How about current situations in Islamic countries where it is illegal to convert from Islam w the potential penalty death? Or how about the mob actions when someone is accused of being disrespectful to the Koran, where people have been beaten & even killed--including ones who were mentally ill? This is current history in Pakistan, Afghanistan. & in Iran we have had 2 pastors imprisoned for converting from Islam, although the better known of them was never a Muslim in his adult life. Another one who is also an American citizen is facing a death penalty for his work in Iran as a Christian leader & maybe because of converting from Islam. In addition, there are the many attacks on Christians & churches by Muslim radicals in Nigeria. What about that? The statistics were included in a comment by someone else above.
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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