CAIR Wants Media To Stop Using Term “Islamist”


The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has issued a press release urging media outlets to discontinue using the term “islamist.” According to the release, the term is “currently used in a pejorative context”:

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. 

The GMBDW notes that the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood has  conducted a long-running campaign to control the discourse surrounding Islam. For example, in March 2009 a post reported that during a Senate hearing on, two leaders of the Leadership Group of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project, an organization whose report promotes the agenda of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, expressed support for changing the language used to describe terrorism, a key objective of the U.S. Brotherhood. One of those leaders, Dahlia Mogahed who has close ties to the U.S. Brotherhood, went on to become an Obama Administration Faith Advisor with extensive contact to the administration’s Global Engagement Directorate, a four-person National Security Council team. A post from April 2010 reported that “religious terms” such as Islamic extremism and Jihad were to be removed from the document known as the National Security Strategy and noted that the Global Engagement Directorate was instrumental in the language change.

post from 2008 discussed a Department of Homeland Security memo urging employees not to use terms including ‘jihad,’ ‘jihadist’ or ‘Islamic terrorist’ in describing Islamic terrorism. As that post noted, the efforts of the US Brotherhood to change US counterterrorism language dates back to the 1988 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa:

Prior to the activities of Al Qaeda, MPAC and CAIR focused their efforts on defending the activities of Palestinian terror groups such as Hamas, arguing as noted above that they were motivated by suffering and oppression. Following the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa, the Brotherhood groups were faced with a new issue- organized Islamic terrorists attacking the United States and killing civilians who were not party to any conflict involving Muslims. After initial denials that Muslims were involved in the attacks, the U.S Brotherhood groups began arguing that although the grievances were “legitimate”, the action were “un-Islamic.” In total, the U.S. Brotherhood effort is in accord with the larger Muslim Brotherhood notion of  “defensive jihad” which holds that Jihad is justified where Muslims or “Muslim honor” is under attack. Therefore, under this definition, Hamas/Hezbollah violence is not terrorism because it is justified and Al Qaeda violence is not “Islamic” because it is not justified.

The US Brotherhood effort to remove terms such as “Jihad”, “Islamic Terrorism” and now “Islamism” is part of a larger rhetorical strategy which appears designed to obscure the true goals of the organization. A post from September 2008 analyzes a law journal article on terrorism by Parvez Ahmed, former chairman of the Council on American Islamic relations (CAIR), which demonstrates all four themes if the Brotherhood strategy.

Documents released in the Holy Land Trial have revealed that the founders and current leaders of CAIR were part of the Palestine Committee of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as identifying the organization itself as being part of the US. Brotherhood. A recent post discussed an interview with the Deputy leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in which he confirms a relationship between his organization and CAIR. Investigative research posted on GMBDW had determined that CAIR had it origins in the U.S. Hamas infrastructure and CAIR and its leaders have a long history of defending almost all individuals accused of terrorism by the US. government, frequently calling such prosecutions a “war on Islam.” In 2009, a US federal judge ruled “The Government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR, ISNA and NAIT with HLF, the Islamic Association for Palestine (“IAP”), and with Hamas.”

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