The AP Stylebook has opened a new chapter on the non-"offensive" Engllsh-language lexicon to parse the war on the world waged by Islam. The wire service bible (can I say that?) has decreed that "Islamist" is out as a "a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals."
Hallelujah. I long ago learned to loathe the mongrel term, which is not to say it wasn't sometimes imposed on me by copy editors who didn't know better until they received, gratis, a piece of my mind. At the same time, this is not to say that the AP and I have to come to this aversion for the same reasons.
Here's my problem with "Islamist" as demonstrated by Charles Krauthammer back in 2006 (from pp.199-200 of The Death of the Grown-Up). Correctly declaring that fear, not "sensitivity," had prevented American media from republishing the Danish cartoons, Krauthammer explained:
"They know what happened to Theo van Gogh who made a film about the Islamic treatment of women and got a knife through his chest with an Islamist manifesto attached."
As noted in the book, Krauthammer was telling us that Theo van Gogh made a film about the "Islamic treatment of women" only to be killed by a knife "with an Islamist manifesto" attatched. Given that both Theo's film and the murder manifesto were directly and explicitly inspired by the verses of the Koran, what's Islamic about the treatment of women that's not also Islamic about the killer's manifesto? The "-ist" is a dodge, a nicety, a semantic wedge between the religion of Islam and the ritual murder of van Gogh. My lament at the time remains frustratingly current:
But why, oh why, is it up to Charles Krauthammer, or any other infidel, to save face when the face is Mohammed's -- the certifiable religious inspiration of jihad murder and dhimmi subjugation, not to mention the oppression of women? If the "-ist" is undeserved here, it is also misplaced -- a figleaf where there should be no shame in understanding.
If the past decade teaches anything, I think it is that there is great shame in understanding Islam -- for non-Muslims. Westerners do seem to find it shameful to admit that Islam, according to its main and mainstream (not "extremist") teachings, is really that bad -- that totalitarian, that supremacist, that misogynistic, that expansionist, that barbaric. Embarassment for Islam's followers seems to overwhelm the Westerner's mental circuits when imagining that millions of people in the 21st century not only submit to Islam's law, but expect -- demand -- that the rest of us to submit to it as well.
Thus, we invent or, better, gratefully accept a way out for everyone. It is the "Islamists" who are the problem -- not those who merely believe in and follow the teachings of Islam. What, doctrinally, is the difference? Why is that our problem?
Playing along with everyone else to save Islam's face, however, AP incorporated "Islamist" to its stylebook in 2012 and defined it thus:
Supporter of government in accord with the laws of Islam.
GIven that the laws of Islam regulate religion, law and government (among other things), this definition describes far more Muslims than fit into any "tiny band of extremists." We know this to be true from multiple polls conducted over the past decade indicating that large majorities of Muslims in key Islamic countries favor "strict sharia" and a "caliphate": in other words, that large majorities in key Islamic countries qualify for the Islam-like label "Islamist." But are they not in fact observant Muslims?
The AP seems to answer the question in in elaborating on its own definition:
Those who view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians to militants known as jihadi.
You can say that again. Inadvertently, perhaps, AP has revealed that an "-ist" is a true believer in religio-legal-political system of Islam. Maybe that helps explain CAIR's campaign to strike the term.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, an American advocacy group sometimes labeled "Islamist" by critics, previously lobbied for the AP to drop the term. In a January op-ed CAIR's communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, wrote the term "has become shorthand for 'Muslims we don't like'" and "is currently used in an almost exclusively pejorative context."
Hooper, of course, has been at this at least since the 9/11 Commission Report came out in 2004.
As of Thursday's update, the AP definition reads:
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.
In sum, we still have the mongrel term made up by blushing media infidels to describe a true believer in Islam. What the AP has done is to decouple the term "Islamist" -- and thereby the "Islam"-ic root -- from those who foment violence. And yes, that would be violence in the name of Islam. But don't mention it.
By refusing to call people who believe in Islam, from jihad to sharia speech codes, Muslims, we non-Muslims have taken Islam off the hook, severing its connection to the doctrinal menace it poses toward liberty. We have also, I would add, reduced the incentive for moderate people within Islam to reject jihad, the sharia, the apostasy laws, and even leave Islam behind them, as disillusioned Communists once left Marx. It's just those "-ists" who are the problem; not Islam -- so why are you so upset about Islamic law? There's nothing "-ist" about it....
It does start to makes one's head hurt.
The AP further beseeches:
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.
Hooper did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the update. I somehow doubt he's happy with the Islamist glass half-full.