It would take a George Orwell to make sense of the AP’s latest “under pressure” linguistic transformation.
Following on the heels of the Tuesday decision by The Associated Press to discontinue use of the term “illegal immigrant,” the news agency on Thursday revised its stylebook entry for another politically charged term.
The term “Islamist,” the AP clarified in a Thursday afternoon alert to online stylebook subscribers, should not be used as “a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals.”
So you can call them Islamic fighters, but you can’t call them Islamists. Why not? Because the Islamists don’t want you to.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, an American advocacy group sometimes labeled “Islamist” by critics, previously lobbied for the AP to drop the term.
So what is the official terminology now? There isn’t one.
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.
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.”
The AP Stylebook has entirely eliminated any broad term for Islamic terrorists and insists on particular terms. That’s not just an attack on language, but on the ability to organize and categorize meaningful definitions.
The redefinition is entirely fact-free. The majority of terrorist groups in the Muslim world are currently Islamist. The number of lefty terrorists in the Muslim world who are not animated by Islamism has dropped to an all time low.
The AP is artificially segmenting Islamist groups. The Muslim Brotherhood it can admit is Islamist, but not Hamas or any of the Muslim Brotherhood’s blatantly terrorist armies. And what of the Muslim Brotherhood before it came out of the cold? It wasn’t Islamist then. Just terrorist. Now it becomes Islamist.
The absurdity of that double standard is obvious. An Islamist group that sets off bombs will not be called “Islamist” by the AP. But once the group seizes power as a political party and begins repressing its opponents using state power, then it can be called Islamist.
Al Qaeda, under the AP Stylebook, is no longer an Islamist group, even though its entire mission is Islamism. Its goal is to establish Islamic states under Islamic law. If you remove that aspect of it, then it no longer has an ideology.
The AP’s new approach is like insisting that the Soviet Union cannot be referred to as Communist, but it’s actually worse than that because once you remove the Islamism from Islamist terrorist groups, they are left hanging in the air. You can’t talk about them in any terms other than Islamism, because Islamism is their entire agenda.
So the AP Stylebook has rendered Islamist terrorist groups definition-less. No one knows what they want or what they stand for. But even the AP still has to talk about them in terms of Islam.
“Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists,” the AP says. But what is an Islamic fighter but an Islamist?
The AP can’t even practice its denial without mentioning Islamism. Instead it substitutes Islamic for Islamist. And is that supposed to be an improvement?