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National Geographic offers a unified theory showing news media take on radical Islam?


If you follow coverage of international news, then you have probably noticed that many mainstream journalists – for a variety of reasons – have struggled to find consistent language to use when covering events linked to terrorism and Islam.

The word “Islamists” had its day. Some journalists simply use phrases such as “radicalized forms of Islam.” Some say “militant.”

Use of the term “Jihadists” is complicated by the fact that the spiritual term “jihad” has been redefined in many ways by thinkers within different streams of this massive and complex world religion. There are also journalists and experts who focus on parts of Islam that can be viewed, together, as a political “ideology” – as opposed to part of a system that is both theological ANDpolitical.

This may seem like a picky issue, but words matter in journalism. Also, it’s impossible to write about divisions inside Islam, many of them bitter and deadly, without having some understanding of who is who and what is what. If the goal is to separate the beliefs and actions of “moderate” or “mainstream” Muslims from those of the radicals – clearly a task journalists should attempt – then you need to have some language to use in public media for people on both sides of these conflicts.

Recently, The National Geographic jumped into this debate with material describing the role of the Salafist movement within the Islamic world, and Egypt in particular.


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