Jihad is a term of great and positive significance in Islam. It is commonly defined as striving or struggle, and can mean an internal or external struggle for faith. But that’s not how they see it as in the West.
As a society they have warped the meaning of the term away from its Qur’anic roots, accepting a definition of the practice put forth by the terror groups they seek to combat. Instead of resisting the extremist ideology, they have embraced it. And by ignoring the complexities and the obligations of jihad — and, by extension, Islam — they are doing nothing more than validating a perverted religious interpretation, echoing it throughout their society, and accepting it as the truth.
It concludes with the formulation of a society that has institutionalized Islamophobia in its culture and politics, normalizing hate crimes such as the 2010 destruction of a Nashville mosque, which took place in the wake of a startling local news broadcast that indicated without any real evidence that the Muslim community of Dover, Tennessee was a breeding ground for Al-Qaeda.
How exactly does their misuse of the word ‘jihad’ validate terrorist ideology and lead to hate crimes?
The term “jihad,” which translates to “strive” or “struggle,” is used in the Qur’an 41 times. For the most part, these verses call on Muslims to engage in what is known as the “greater jihad,” a constant inner struggle to better oneself and live in the manner prescribed by the Almighty.
Jihad has an external element as well. This is the where fear-mongering pundits like to define jihad in its entirety. Either way, their message is clear — Islam is out to get you, Westerners, so you better watch out.
In the Qur’an proscription against aggression is repeated throughout, sanctioning self-defense but stopping way short of condoning any sort of antagonistic behavior. Therefore, we see a jihad that requires a defense of Islam but emphatically forbids belligerence of any kind.
Of course, this is not the interpretation that everyone chooses to accept. The Qur’an can be interpreted in radically different ways and manipulated to suit the preordained desires of the reader.
Despite this, the image of both Islam and jihad that is transmitted to the Western public focuses exclusively on the most extreme interpretations of the religion. It ignores complexities and encourages ignorance and paranoia. It comes as no surprise then that shoe companies would produce shoes with the name of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) engraved upon them or that New York City subways would advertise ads that connected Jihad to violence and terror.
Across the world Muslims have to “reclaim Islam” from the grips of the terrorists who have hijacked the Western public’s perception of the religion.
The consequences of such misinterpretations are dire. Not only has the media legitimized these extremist ideas as accurate interpretations of the Qur’an, it has associated Al-Qaeda with jihad and the Taliban with Islam. In other words, through this distortion Americans have come to see the “enemy” as Islam just as much as they see it as any specific terrorist organization, creating a culture of Islamophobia that harms Muslims in the West and threatens Western values at their very core. They must know that Al Qaeda and its allies are not jihadists but renegades.
Rectifying this is essential. A positive image of Islam is not somehow going soft on terrorism. Nor is it overblown political correctness. For most who practice the religion, it is simply the truth. It’s time to awaken the Sleeping Beauties in the Western leaderships and media and make them see the truth which to them will be inevitable since it presents their self-made foe as a friend.
By: Fatima Arshad