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."
"Islamist" is frequently used as a label for conservative Islamic political movements, particularly Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, the group's Palestinian offshoot. It generally carries a negative connotation.
The AP first added the term to its stylebook in 2012. The definition initially read:
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 known as jihadi.
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."
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.
CAIR praised the AP's update. "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," Hooper said. "The key issue with the term ‘Islamist’ is not its continued use; the issue is its use almost exclusively as an ill-defined pejorative."
The AP's decision to discontinue "illegal immigrant" was part of an ongoing process of "ridding the Stylebook of labels," the organization's senior vice president and executive editor, Kathleen Carroll, said in a blog post. It was immediately criticized by opponents of illegal immigration, including Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who told U.S. News he objected to efforts "to soften the crime of entering illegally."
Update (04/05/13): This article has been updated with a statement from Ibrahim Hooper.