Guide for Western journalists covering Islam

Do you know what Jihad means? The difference between “Muslim” and
“Arab”? Michigan State University’s School of Journalism has published a
manual of best practices for journalists reporting on Islam.

The manual includes sections on ethics, knowledge, objectivity and sources. It was developed by Michigan State j-students.

Under knowledge, the manual says:

Learn Connotations of Terms:

“Do not make assumptions based on the connotation of words. As a reporter, you should research, investigate and understand the true meaning of words not used frequently in your native language to make sure the words are being used properly.

“Avoid using terms that the audience has no knowledge of or with which a misplaced knowledge has developed. In the event that they can’t be avoided, clarify. For example, the word “jihad” is commonly mistranslated as “holy war” and believed to be something that is inherently wrong, dangerous, sinister, etc. While some militant groups use the term in that way, the concept has a much different meaning for mainstream Muslims.

“Likewise, the Arabic phrase “Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is the Greatest,” is both extremely important to and commonly used by Muslims. It is a repeated feature of Islamic prayer and also is used in place of applause and as a general cheer. However, the media often present the phrase as a battle cry. This has the potential of casting all uses of the phrase as suspicious or to be feared, which would then serve to demonize entire Muslim populations.”