In the Sun Sentinel, Walid Phares writes “Just as the word "Crusaders" doesn't equate with "Christians, " the term "Islamist" doesn't equate with "Muslims."
He points out:
The term used by the president -- "Islamic fascists" -- when referring to the al-Qaida plotters in London, triggered a wave of negative reactions by Islamist lobbies, but also by moderate Muslim groups worldwide. The president most likely meant "Islamo-fascists" when he was attempting to expose the radicals. But Islamist lobbies were quick to "interpret" it as implying that "Muslims are fascists" -- an assumption which would necessarily elicit strong negative feelings from the Muslim community, moderates included.
In view of sensitivities and the complexity of the debate, terms to avoid are any association between the term Muslim and terrorism, fascism, etc, especially if it is generalized. One may be born a Muslim, but becomes an Islamist. So the term Islamic is an attribute to a behavior, an action or a self-assertion.
Islamist is a perfectly legitimate term that describes a particular ideology such as Salafism, Khumeinism or jihadism. Not only is it used in the academic world as an indicator for an ideology and not a community, but it is used by followers around the world. Thus adding attributes to Islamist is academically sound and understood. For example: Islamist-fascists or Islamo-fascist, Islamist-Salafist, etc.
It is important that leaders, intellectuals and academics explain to their audiences that words are part of the War of Ideas. The public must understand that there are political forces that are putting pressure on governments and media around the world to block knowledge as part of an effort to shield the radicals and the terrorists.