COLORADO SPRINGS, CO, April 12, 2013—Hard on the heels of their much-mocked defining of illegal aliens, the Associated Press this week provides guidance on writing about radical Islam. Its definition:
Islamist: 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.
The first sentence is correct. The Islamist movement started in Cairo, Egypt, in the 1920s in reaction to the secular Turkish state that replaced the Ottoman Empire after World War One. That was the Muslim Brotherhood.
Today the movement includes a wide variety of groups such as the Taliban, Hezbollah, Al Qaida and numerous affiliates. The movement includes fighters, militants, extremists and radicals.
All members of these groups are either fighters, militants, extremists or radicals. It is how they define themselves. All Islamic fighters, militants, extremists and radicals are Islamists: there is no “may or may not be.” Not all Muslims are Islamists, however.
Islam is a religion of war. Mohammad and his successors spread their religion by the sword through conquest. This is the meaning of jihad.
Spreading east through North Africa, they swept away the remains of the Western Roman Empire, conquered Spain, and were only stopped in southern France by Charles Martel at the battle of Tours in 732.
In the east, they defeated the Byzantine Empire, capturing Constantinople in 1453. They desecrated the Agia Sophia, the Orthodox equivalent of St. Peter’s in Rome, renaming it the Blue Mosque, which it remains today.
The Ottomans then conquered the Balkans, annihilating the Serbian army at the Battle of Kossovo in 1389. They left the Serbian dead on the field. It became known to Serbians as the Field of Blackbirds. This is why the Serbian people have such an emotional attachment to Kossovo. It’s the way Americans feel about Gettysburg, Pearl Harbor and the Twin Towers.
The Ottomans were stopped at the gates of Vienna in 1683.
The Islamic Ottomans were tolerant of Christians in the Balkans. Christians were allowed to practice their religion; they just had to pay taxes, including the “child tax.” Specified numbers of their sons were sent to Istanbul to be raised Islam in an all-male military corps known as the Janissaries. These became fanatical guards of the Ottoman rulers and led Ottoman armies against Christians.
That was the high point of the Muslim conquest in the West. There followed centuries of Christian armies reclaiming lost lands in Europe, though not in Africa or the Middle East, where Christian “crusaders” briefly founded a kingdom around Jerusalem.
This is why Islamists hate the word “crusade.”
In Spain, the Reconquista was completed in 1492. In the Balkans, independence was achieved in the 19th century with the aid of the Russians.
Modern Islamists hold that all the lands conquered at the high point of the Muslim Conquest belong to them. Their ultimate goal is to re-reconquer them. That is the modern meaning of jihad. Some Islamists believe that Islam should conquer the entire world.
Not familiar with this history? Islamists are.
The Associated Press style guide is published online. Journalists buy a yearly subscription to get updates, which are mostly not about style but rather about definition.
The AP ought to either restrict themselves to real matters of style or else provide complete and accurate information regarding definitions.
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