Muslims Campaign to Reclaim ‘Jihad’ from Extremists

May 16, 2008


Source: The Kansas City Star/Religion News Service

The end to Ani Zonneveld’s “jihad” on “jihad” came during an episode of “Desperate Housewives,” when Lynette (Felicity Huffman) discovers she has cancer and throws a stone at a opossum.

“Look at yourself,” replies her husband, Tom. “You’ve declared jihad on a opossum.”

“At that point,” said Zonneveld, the co-director of the advocacy group Muslims for Progressive Values, “I think it is too late to redefine the true meaning of jihad.”

Strictly speaking, “jihad” is supposed to mean an inner struggle toward holiness. But for many Americans, the term connotes holy war, especially when militant groups such as al-Qaida vow to wage jihad against the United States.

Zonneveld’s frustration with how “jihad” has come to be associated with violence reflects a broader concern among many Muslim Americans who believe various Islamic terms are being misused by the media and politicians and co-opted by Muslim extremists and anti-Muslim critics.

Not only does such misuse disparage the faith and undercut moderate followers, they say, it also unwittingly gives legitimacy to Muslim extremists.

“The real key is not to afford (terrorists) the name of Islam and not legitimize them that way,” said Ahmed Rehab, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, emphasizing that terrorists represented only a tiny fraction of the Muslim world.