Reporters asked to handle 'Islamic' jargon with care
(Washington Times, By Larry Witham)
An organization of religion news reporters yesterday suggested that
reporters avoid the term "Islamic terrorist" or similar labels
as Muslims and their beliefs receive greater scrutiny.
The Religion Newswriters Association said it was "troubled"
by the frequent use of the term in the days after the terrorist attacks
in New York and Washington.
The resolution, adopted by a majority vote at the group's annual
meeting, also rejected "similar phrases that associate an entire
religion with the action of a few."
The statement will be sent to the 240 members of the RNA and other
news organizations. It will be released today by the Associated Press.
"Terrorist acts are committed by individuals and groups for
reasons that often involve a complex mix of cultural, religious,
nationalist, economic and psychological motives," the resolution
Hence, reporting in the wake of the attacks should "avoid
stereotypes [and] be aware of the complexity of religious traditions and
to use care in attempting to describe the motives of terrorists,"
the resolution said.
However, some news editors note that terrorist groups often use the
term "Islamic" in the names of their organizations,
particularly when they claim credit for an attack on civilians or a
The news writers' resolution was drafted Thursday, the day that
President Bush, in his address to Congress, described Islam as a
religion of peace. Mr. Bush made correct distinctions in his attempt to
explain the Islamic faith, but not in his description of terrorism as an
"ideology," Ingrid Mattson, vice president of the Islamic
Society of North America, said during a panel meeting of religious
experts at the news writers' gathering.
"Terrorism is a tactic, a strategy," she said. "It's
not an ideology."
She agrees with those who say that a precise alternative to
"Islamic terrorist" was not easy when Islamic terrorists
themselves use this term, and when news organizations need simple terms
for headlines and stories.
Citing a CNN program titled "Behind the Veil," Ms. Mattson
said that such "exotic orientalism" about Islam pervades
Western coverage of Muslim issues, and she recommends Americanizing
Muslim terms in the United States.
American Muslims and the U.S. media should use the term God instead
of Allah, she said, and the "hijab" that Muslim women wear
over their head should be called a scarf.
As with many other Muslim scholars, Ms. Mattson said the word
"jihad" refers only to a defensive war — so terrorists and
radical groups misuse the word when they call for a "holy war"
against the United States or Israel.
When Mr. Bush called for a defense of America on Thursday night, she
said, he "was basically calling for a 'jihad,' which is a justified
In recent years, Muslim policy groups and political organizations in
the United States have asked for more accurate usage of Arabic terms and
recognition of Islamic holy days.
The groups persuaded news organizations, including The Washington
Times and the Associated Press, to use the spelling "Muslim"
instead of "Moslem," as the latter offends some followers of
the faith. Some Muslims prefer "Quran" instead of
"Koran" for the Muslim holy book, but this usage has not been
Taken from: http://www.cair-net.org/nr/9-24.asp