The Council on American-Islamic relations, the largest Muslim advocacy group in the country, is all but demanding journalists drop the word "Islamist" from their vocabulary.
Specifically, CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper takes issue with the definition of Islamist in the Associated Press Stylebook, the style and usage Bible for journalists. The AP added the term to its stylebook in 2012, describing an Islamist as a "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 know as jihadi."
Despite the seemingly innocuous assessment by AP, Mr. Hooper detects "pejorative" undertones in the word "islamist."
He explained his objections in a press released peddled as an op-ed last Thursday, complaining, "Unfortunately, the term 'Islamist' has become shorthand for 'Muslims we don't like [and] is is often coupled with the term 'extremist', giving it an even more negative slant."
According to Mr. Hooper, the word is offensive because it gives Muslims a bad name, linking peaceful adherents to Islam with violent jihadis.
"It might be an interesting exercise to hold a contest, the winner of which would be the first to find a positive mainstream reference to 'Islamist,'" he writes.
Given this problem, one would expect Mr. Hooper to have a less insulting alternative at the ready. But CAIR is not interested in definitions. Like The Party in George Orwell's "1984," CAIR wants to erase all trace of dangerous ideas by eliminating the words that contain them.
Mr. Hooper made this clear when he refused to provide an acceptable alternative to The Washington Times, replying to questions only with questions of his own. "Do you believe there is such a thing as a 'good' 'Islamist'?" he asked.
He did quote from his earlier press release:
"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."
The Associated Press stands by its definition.
"As we told Mr. Hooper recently, we think the term is useful to distinguish Muslims who believe strongly in the Quran as a political model from those Muslims who do not," AP spokesman Paul Colford told The Washington Times in an email.
In response to Mr. Hooper's op-ed, Pamela Geller of AtlasShrugged.com wrote Sunday in World Net Daily that this latest press release is part of CAIR's continued "war on the truth about Islam and jihad."
She noted that the term CAIR finds so offensive itself whitewashes the connections between jihadi violence and Islamic teaching.
"Of course, Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the United States don't like the term 'Islamist.' They are insulted by it because they sanction jihad and the murders that are regularly committed in the cause of Islam. They will demand that media and politicians never mention Islam — except to praise it — even if thousands die in the cause of Islam and the jihadists are screaming 'Allahu akbar' while blowing themselves up."
CAIR's objective is clear: eliminate all negative references to Muslims in the press. Otherwise, CAIR would offer an acceptable alternative to a word rife with jihadist connotations. But they are more concerned with what the media thinks of Islam, pressing for journalists' personal views without answering questions themselves.
Michal Conger is a digital editor with Times247.