Stop Using the Word ‘Islam’ in Reports on Terrorism, Islamic Bloc Says

By Patrick Goodenough | December 4, 2008 | 5:01 AM EST

The OIC wants media coverage of terror attacks to avoid use of any references to Islam. These newspaper headlines are from July 8, 2005, the morning after the London bombings.

( – If the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) had its way, media reporting on terrorist activity would exclude “any reference to Islam” – whatever the affiliation, identity or motivation of the perpetrators.
The bloc of Islamic nations, which is spearheading a drive at the United Nations to have the “defamation” of Islam outlawed, this week voiced criticism about media coverage of recent terrorist attacks.
Without citing any specific attack, the OIC’s Jeddah-based general secretariat said in a statement it had “noticed a tendency of a section of the media, to interpose the word ‘Islam’ in reporting these incidences.”
“It is frustrating to see some circles, still, maliciously trying to establish conceptual link between such evil and wicked practices and Islam, the religion that condemns, scorns and outlaws them,” it said.
The OIC described the perpetrators of such attacks as “deviant and fanatic individuals.”
“We, in the OIC, call upon all well-intentioned peoples of the world, not to give to these criminals any right to present Islam, a right that Islam itself denies them,” it said. “Those who refer to the perpetrators as acting on behalf of Islam, help them by offering them justification, anchor and premise that they don’t have or deserve.”
The OIC also complained that “generalization of the guilt of a few aberrant misguided individuals” amounted to the collective punishment of Islam’s 1.3 billion adherents.
“It is therefore hoped that media will avoid resorting to any reference to Islam when narrating such events in order not to disseminate erroneous information that might jeopardize the basic human rights of Muslims, the world over,” it said.
The statement was released at a time when India is demanding that Pakistan hand over 20 fugitives in connection with last week’s deadly attacks in Mumbai and earlier attacks in India going back several decades. Of the 20, 15 are Muslims (the others are Sikh extremists), mostly associated with Islamic jihadi groups.
Robert Spencer, an expert on Islam and director of the Jihad Watch Web site, called the OIC statement “the height of hypocrisy.”
“It was not the media that interposed the word ‘Islam’ in reporting about the Mumbai attacks; rather, it was the Islamic group the Deccan Mujahideen that did so,” he said, referring to a claim of responsibility sent to Indian media early on during the 60-hour assault.
“‘Mujahideen’ are warriors of jihad, and jihad is a concept that in the Koran and Sunnah and throughout Islamic history has included a mandate for warfare against unbelievers,” Spencer noted.
But the OIC was going beyond hypocrisy, he said. “It is trying to hoodwink the U.N. and the West into passing speech codes that will forbid non-Muslim analysts from connecting any act of violence or terror to Islam, even when the perpetrators themselves make that connection.
“This will render the West mute and defenseless in the face of continuing Islamic jihadist aggression,” Spencer said.
‘A source of shame’
The OIC and various other Islamic bodies condemned the Mumbai attacks – although not all did so unequivocally. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, while calling the attacks “despicable” and expressing hope that the perpetrators would be punished, added, “We must also take this opportunity to remind the world of the suffering of the Palestinian people who are the victims of daily terror committed by Israel.”
In the years since 9/11, many Islamic religious and political leaders around the world have spoken out against terrorism. Many others have justified it, however, citing the Koran and Sunnah and Hadiths – the deeds, traditions and sayings of Mohammed – in doing so.
Those trying to delink Islam from terrorism committed by people claiming to act on Islam’s behalf have not been helped by opinion polls showing considerable support among ordinary Muslims for violence.
A Pew Global Attitudes survey in 2005, for instance, headlined the finding that support for suicide bombings targeting civilians had declined since 2002 – but the 2005 support levels were still significant, especially in Jordan (57 percent said they were justified often or sometimes), Lebanon (39 percent) and Pakistan (25 percent).
In the same poll, those who said suicide bombings targeting the U.S. and its allies in Iraq were justifiable ranged from almost one-quarter or respondents in Turkey to more than one-in-two in Morocco.
The struggle to draw a line between Islam and terrorism has also come up against the inability of the United Nations over several years to draw up a definition of terrorism – because mostly Islamic states insist on exempting Palestinian actions against Israel.
Writing in the Dubai-based Khaleej Times early this week, the paper’s opinion editor Aijaz Zaka Syed described how difficult he found it to face his non-Muslim colleagues “every time innocents are targeted in the name of Islam around the world.”
“I feel like burying myself in the ground,” he wrote. “Growing up in a religious family, one never thought one would see the day when being a Muslim could be a source of shame.”
“It’s all very well for us to say Islam has nothing to do with extremism and terrorism.  We can go on deluding ourselves these psychopaths do not represent us,” Syed said.
“However, the world finds it hard to accept this line of argument because it sees the extremists increasingly assert themselves and take the center-stage while the mainstream Islam remains silent.”
Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow