Political correctness fanatics at The Associated Press were busy last week as they amended the style guide used almost universally by American journalists to make the world of newswriting a kinder, gentler place for illegal aliens and non-extreme Muslims who worry about being grouped with Islamist extremist outfits like the Muslim Brotherhood.
AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll explained that the changes to the Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law were part of an effort to abolish labels.
She was quoted in an AP blog post about the term “illegal immigrant”:
The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term “illegal immigrant” or the use of “illegal” to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that “illegal” should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.
Why did we make the change?
The discussions on this topic have been wide-ranging and include many people from many walks of life. (Earlier, they led us to reject descriptions such as “undocumented,” despite ardent support from some quarters, because it is not precise. A person may have plenty of documents, just not the ones required for legal residence.)
That decision drew criticism from many conservative Americans who feel that people who choose to remain in the United State illegally have earned the designation of illegal immigrant or alien. Even late night talk show host Jay Leno poked fun at the news organization’s decision, suggesting that they call illegal aliens “undocumented Democrats.”
The decision to change the definition of Islamist in the AP style guide was a result of complaints from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The Muslim civil rights group claimed that the term Islamist is used primarily in a pejorative context by newswriters because of AP’s previous definition of the word: “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.”
In an attempt to provide a more neutral connotation for the term, AP now defines Islamist as an “advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam.” It also advises journalists: “Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.”
To provide an example for our readers of what mainstream media writers will deal with henceforth, consider how an AP-compliant story about a hypothetical scenario wherein an illegal alien and Islamist extremist carries out a terror attack on the United States might read: Today an illegal alien a person who crossed the border without proper documentation who happened to be living in the United States illegally carried out an attack on the U.S. to further the cause of Islamists in the name of his religion. The perpetrator is alleged to be an extremist who may or may not also be of the Islamist persuasion.