BBC CoJ debates the use of the term ‘Islamist’

For some interesting insights into views on the use of the term ‘Islamist’ by BBC journalists, see this post by Cathy Loughran from the BBC College of Journalism’s blog. 

“The Russian editor was joined by BBC Urdu’s Aamer Ahmed Khan and Josephine Hazeley of the BBC African Service to chew over an issue that presenter David Amanor said had already sparked heated debate in the BBC African newsroom. The concerns of journalists there seemed to centre on the use of ‘Islamist’ as journalistic shorthand for Islamist militant/extremist/rebel/terrorist, or in circumstances when the militancy or violence referred to has nothing to do with Islam.

Aamer’s view was that precise language is the only way to avoid misleading readers and audiences. “The confusion is where you use [Islamist] interchangeably with the words ‘militant or extremist’. It’s just plain wrong – as wrong as calling a tortoise a coconut,” he argued colourfully.

Besides, not all militant groups are Islamist. The Taleban in Pakistan? Yes. It would be inaccurate to describe the Taleban as just a militant organisation, Aamer believes. But al-Qaeda? In his opinion it is not necessarily an Islamist militant group because its driving political focus is anti-Americanism.”

The BBC’s ‘official’ interpretation of the word is also included: tell us in the comments below what you think about it. 

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