Text from Ibrahim Hooper Interview 1993

Reader says use of ‘fundamentalist’ hurting Muslims

By Lou Gelfand; Staff Writer |

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Published: April 4, 1993

Section: NEWS

Page#: 31A



Ibrahim Hooper, who says his Islamic Information Service represents Minnesota’s estimated 15,000 Muslims, has reiterated his request that “fundamentalists” not be used to describe those charged in the World Trade Center bombing in New York.


To be a Muslim you must believe in Islam’s sacred text, the Koran, and that makes every Muslim a fundamentalist, Hooper says.


Roger Buoen, Star Tribune national editor, agrees that “fundamentalist” is an imperfect term to describe the alleged bombers, but says, “I’ve yet to hear an alternative that’s better.”

Typical of the “fundamentalist” usage was a March 27 Associated Press article that said, “The suspects appear to be fundamentalist Muslims, which raised the prospect of anti-Western zealotry.”


R. Scott Appleby, who headed a six-year study of fundamentalism for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, defends the use of “fundamentalists.”


He says it describes those committed to an Islamic state. “They feel that Islamic law must be implemented as the basis for all legal decisions, for all courts, for all legislation,” he says.


The academy’s study, reported in London’s Economist, said, “Fundamentalists may have started as traditionalists but have been forced, by events or history or the world at large, into activism. All see themselves as ‘fighting back,’ using violence if necessary, against the forces of secularism or modernism.”


Hooper objects. “That’s a standard non-Muslim interpretation. Most non-Muslims believe in the separation between church and state. To have an Islamic society you must have Islamic rulers. We aren’t allowed to take over (the United States and) other governments. What we fight for here and in the remainder of the world is to practice our beliefs.


“I wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future,” Hooper says. “But I’m not going to do anything violent to promote that. I’m going to do it through education.”


Buoen said the Star Tribune uses “fundamentalist” to “describe individuals and groups who favor and seek an Islamic religious state. The term may be imperfect, but I’ve yet to hear an alternative that’s better. Our news services use the term, and many scholars favor its use.


“Still,” Buoen says, “I agree with critics that the term is loaded with negative connotations and can be misleading. I think it’s best to avoid the label when possible, and instead use more specific descriptions of individuals or groups.


“We have attempted to do this when reporting on the arrests arising out of the World Trade Center bombing. Our stories will often say the suspects ‘have links to a Muslim cleric who advocates the overthrow of Egypt’s secular government,’ or something along those lines. But unfortunately this level of detail is not always practical - in headlines, cutlines, briefs, passing references in stories - and we’re forced to use the shorthand term ‘fundamentalist.’ “




END Text from Ibrahim Hooper Minneapolis Star-Trib Interview 1993