If I can call a Muslim an 'Islamist,' can I call a Christian a 'Christianist'?

For newspaper reporters, the short answer to that question is "no."

On Thursday, the Associated Press revised the usage of the word "Islamist." But instead of banning the word, like it did with "illegal immigrant," it restricted the use of Islamist to certain situations.

For example: Here is the how the new Stylebook instructs reporters:

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 decision is an acknowledgement that a wide swath of Muslims -- ranging from mainstream politicians to violent jihadists -- view the Quran as a legitimate political model, and the AP's restriction is an effort to not conflate those two types of Muslims. But the move doesn't fully satisfy demands by the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties group, CAIR, to "drop the term" altogether. As CAIR's Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper argued in January, using the term in any fashion represents something of a double-standard:

There are few, if any, positive references to "Islamist" in news articles. There are also no -- nor should there be -- references to "Christianists," "Judaists" or "Hinduists" for those who would similarly seek governments "in accord with the laws" of their respective faiths.

No journalist would think of referring to the "Judaist government of Israel," the "Christianist leader Rick Santorum" or "Hinduist Indian politician Narendra Modi," while use of "Islamist" has become ubiquitous.

Hooper is right that the use of the word "Islamist" has become ubiquitous. But he's wrong that "no journalist" would ever think to say "Christianist." For evidence, look no further than cantankerous political blogger Andrew Sullivan, who famously adopted the term to differentiate Christians like himself and more fundamentalist Christians in a 2006 Time magazine article:

Let me suggest that we take back the word Christian while giving the religious right a new adjective: Christianist. Christianity, in this view, is simply a faith. Christianism is an ideology, politics, an ism. The distinction between Christian and Christianist echoes the distinction we make between Muslim and Islamist. Muslims are those who follow Islam. Islamists are those who want to wield Islam as a political force and conflate state and mosque.

In the ensuing years, Sullivan went on to derisively label hard-right Christians as "Christianists" in numerous blog posts for the Daily Dish (now simply, the Dish). At the time, Sullivan took a fair amount of heat for this characterization, and still does to this day. In a 2006 rebuttal, the American Spectator's R. Andrew Newman chastised Sullivan for comparing (Christian) apples to (Muslim) oranges:

You know, Rick Santorum equals that nuke-loving Iranian guy, the one who looks like an older, Muslim Maynard G. Krebs. Jerry Falwell is a chubbier Osama bin Laden in a suit off the rack from J.C. Penney.

Of course Sullivan says that's not what he means. Not at all. They're not terrorists, they're not violent. It's only that Christianists have hijacked Christianity like Islamists have hijacked Islam. Except they haven't slammed a plane into the Pentagon, leveled walls on homosexuals, stashed women in burqas, or rioted because Jesus appeared on the funny pages. But beyond that, I'm sure he has a point. Somewhere.

It's certainly a debate that feels very early aughts, but it still has resonance today. Right now, CAIR is hailing the AP's move as a "step in the right direction," while a phalanx of conservative media is denouncing it as a bow to political correctness. "That's not a journalistic judgment," Rush Limbaugh said on his show today. "That is a partisan political judgment."

The AP Stylebook contains no entry for "Christianist" -- and if the news agency's move to ban "illegal immigrant" is any indicator, hot-button words will only become rarer. That's why the smart money suggests an eventual phase-out of "Islamist" for the Associated Press altogether. If that makes your skin crawl, you're in luck: This thing called the Internet is not beholden to AP standards. You can say anything you want.  So long live the world's Islamists, Christianists, Judaeists, Sikhists, Wiccists, Heathenists, Hinduists, Hellenic paganists, Taoists, Rastafarists, Buddhistists, Jainistists, Zoroastrianists, and Confucianistists.


Bollywood's strategy for attracting a younger crowd? More zombie movies

India's Bollywood has been known for many things over time: the singing, the dancing, the ten costume changes as characters are miraculously transported to rolling hills in some New Zealand-esque setting. And then, of course, there is the beloved genre of saccharine sweet love.

Boy meets girl. Girl can't be with boy because of parents, religion, his terrible dance moves, or an arranged marriage. Boy persists and sings in the rain. They get married.


But now directors are looking for something new. Cue the new fad of zombie movies. As Reuters reported on Friday, Indian filmmakers are now trying to appeal to a younger audience by producing more zombie films:

Few horror films are made in Bollywood and those that do make it to the big screen tend to focus on ghosts and the after-life, which are common themes in Hindu mythology.

But this year, as Indian cinema celebrates 100 years, three zombie films made in Hindi are slated for release, hoping to compete with blockbuster U.S. zombie movies such as "Warm Bodies" and "World War Z".

Rise of the Zombie is coming out on April 5, and it's a trilogy. Go Goa Gone will come out in May, starring heartthrob Saif Ali Khan as a fake Russian zombie hunter (complete with "blonde" hair). And then there is Rock the Shaadi (Rock the Wedding), which will come out later this year accompanied by a graphic novel.


While Bollywood has typically not had many problems ripping pages from Hollywood's playbook, Luke Kenny, the director of Rise of the Zombie, says he will face a challenge in educating Indian audiences who don't have a culture of zombie folklore. (If you're also wondering how zombies got to India, Go Goa Gone blames it on globalization.) 

Of course, you could argue that India has more experience with zombies than one might think. Exhibit A: this take on Michael Jackson's Thriller.