‘Islamist,’ ‘Terrorist’ Now Forbidden Words

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AP headquarters in New York
AP headquarters in New York (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)


Doublespeak is language that deliberately distorts or even reverses the meaning of words. For example, when critics of radical Islam expose this extremism for what is it, their critics call them “Islamophobes;” when those who call themselves “social justice warriors” campaigning for tolerance exhibit just the opposite (i.e., intolerance) by shutting down any conversation with which they don’t agree; when others force their religious beliefs (i.e., blasphemy laws) upon others in the name of religion (as in Canada’s new motion against criticism of Islam); or when perpetrators of crimes frame themselves as victims.

Doublespeak often leads to doublethink, as George Orwell writes in his seminal novel Nineteen Eight-Four: “To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient.” In the novel, people explicitly learn doublethink due to peer pressure and a desire to fit in or gain status with in the “Party.”

With these definitions in mind, Clarion Project launches a week-long expose of some of the worst offenders:


A round of applause goes to CAIR and its media shills for actualizing their goal of scrubbing the word “Islamist” from journalism’s lexicon.

In a stunning display of “progressive” political correctness, the Associated Press announced that, among other words and expressions, “Islamist” and “terrorist” are no longer acceptable.

Instead, ‘Islamist’ is to be dropped altogether and the perpetrators of Islamist terrorist attacks are to called “militants,” “attackers” or “lone wolves.”

The AP wields power in the journalist world, directing the lexicon not only of its own reporters but the majority of English-language journalists worldwide through its iconic stylebook. Reporters from college newspapers to international media outlets rely on the AP to set the standards of language used in the media.

Even if a journalist doesn’t want to use AP style, “If you don’t write it this way and you submit an article to a mainstream publication, the editors will change your words,” says Rachel Alexander, a contributor to The Hill writing on the changes.

As writer Todd Starnes notes, as far back as 1972, an article in Public Opinion Quarterly stated, “In choosing and displaying news, editors, newsroom staff, and broadcasters play an important part in shaping political reality. Readers learn not only about a given issue, but also how much importance to attach to that issue from the amount of information in a news story and its position.”

How much more so is the language used to describe that “political reality.”

Along with the changes to the word Islamist and terrorist, the AP also decided the words “migrant” or “refugee” must no longer be used; rather the appropriate words are now “people struggling to enter Europe.” Similarly, AP says “pro-life” should be called “anti-abortion.”  “Illegal immigrant” and “undocumented” may also not be used anymore (AP had already forbidden the use of “illegals” and “alien”).

CAIR began its campaign a number of years ago to get the word “Islamist” out of the media because, in the opinion of Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s national communications director, “the term has become journalistic shorthand for ‘Muslims we don’t like.’”

Initially, AP defined the word “Islamist” correctly as, “An advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam.”

In laymen’s terms, this means an Islamist is someone who would like to see the implementation of sharia (Islamic) law as the law of the land.

However, in deference to objections by CAIR, the AP began to make changes. In 2013, they told journalists, “Do not use [the word Islamist] as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.”

Rightly so, CAIR viewed this change as a victory.

At first, the mainstream media did not comply. They correctly recognized AP’s false statement that “Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals … may not be Islamists.”

CAIR then launched a new effort to get the media to stop using the word Islamist altogether, reasoning that if the word Islamist is totally scrubbed, there will be no term to describe all those who want to implement sharia whether by violence (as in the Islamic State and other Islamist terror groups) or by gradualism as is the goal of CAIR and its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Scrubbing the word ‘Islamist” suits CAIR’s agenda and the agenda of Islamists everywhere. Disassociating Islamists and their terrorist –oops, “militant” — groups from Islam means the ideology driving their actions will not be a topic of discussion, making it much easier to implement their agenda.

Moreover, calling Islamist terrorists “militants” puts them on a moral par with other activists who merely believe stridently in their goals – whether they are using legal or illegal means to achieve them. (And as we are increasingly seeing – e.g., in the recent riots in Berkeley against conservative speakers — police and the media are giving a free pass to illegal and violent expressions of such “activism.”)

Yet another concerning consequence of the scrubbing of the word Islamist from our lexicon is that those who are biased against Muslims simply for being Muslims will have more fodder for their hate.

“When we differentiate between Islam as a world religion and Islamism as a political agenda, we are able to discuss the problematic nature of Islamism and its aim for political domination in a qualified and differentiated manner without slipping into a hate message towards the religion of Islam,” says Dr. Elham Manea, a Muslim professor of political science at the University of Zurich and an outspoken international human rights activist.

In sum, “The mainstream media claims it’s not biased but it has got this bias built into its own words,” says Alexander.

Scrubbing these words out of our language means that a small group — called the mainstream media — will be setting the political agenda for many years to come.

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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