Last week the Associated Press made national headlines when they announced they would no longer recommend journalists using their Stylebook to identify undocumented immigrants in the U.S. as “illegal immigrants.” But there was another update to the Stylebook that advocates say will help present Muslims in the news in a more positive light.
Earlier this year the Council on American-Islamist Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organization, urged media outlets to drop the term Islamist because they said the term had 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,” CAIR argued in an op-ed published in January.
Last Thursday the AP moved to disassociate the term “Islamist” from its negative connotations with “Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.”
The Stylebook’s updated entry for “Islamist” now reads as follows:
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.”
In a statement, CAIR said the AP’s decision to revise its Stylebook reference to the term “Islamist” was a “step” towards progress.
“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,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. “The key issue with the term ‘Islamist’ is not its continued use; the issue is its use almost exclusively as an ill-defined pejorative.”