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My Jihad': CAIR Ad Campaign Tries to Rebrand 'Jihad' as a Positive Word


“Jihad is more about peace and education than anything else.”

Jihad means friendship according to the new advertising campaign (photo from MyJihad.org)

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is trying to rebrand the word jihad in an advertisement campaign launched last week on San Francisco buses.

The MyJihad campaign aims to educate Americans about what the group believes is the real meaning of the word jihad.

The slogans appearing on the buses include:

"My Jihad is to stay fit despite my busy schedule. What's yours?"

“My Jihad is to build friendships across the aisle. What’s yours?”

“My Jihad is to not judge people by their cover. What’s yours?”

This poster touts fitness as a manifestation of jihad (photo from MyJihad.org)

According to its website, the campaign aims “to share the proper meaning of Jihad as believed and practiced by the majority of Muslims.” The group explains [Emphasis in original]:

Jihad is a central tenet of the Islamic creed which means “struggling in the way of God". The way of God, being goodness, justice, passion, compassion, etc (not forcible conversion as wrongly claimed by some).

As Muslims, we are taught to put forth a concerted and noble effort against injustice, hate, misunderstanding, war, violence, poverty, hunger, abuse or whatever challenge big or small we face in daily life, with the purpose of getting to  a better place.

While the struggle for justice may be physical (as a last resort, and even then it ought to be a just struggle that goes above and beyond observing the universal code of conduct and rules of engagement), the greatest Jihad is that of the self, a fact often ignored by, or unknown to, many.  In more than one sense, Jihad is more about peace and education than anything else. […] Jihad is a personal commitment to service, patience, determination, and taking the higher road, as such, it tasks us with confronting our own weaknesses, vices, and shortcomings; it is about taking personal responsibility.

Campaign organizers say the word jihad has been “widely misrepresented” due to “first and foremost, the actions of Muslim extremists,” “public indoctrination by Islamophobes” and “a selective media.” They would now like to reclaim the word so that non-Muslims no longer associate jihad with “terrorism, blowing up things, and spilling innocent blood.”

The group claims that jihad is “often mistranslated” as holy war. It explains: “The simple, yet much ignored fact is that Jihad is a positive, peaceful, and constructive practice in the lives of everyday Muslims whose reality has long been excluded from the conversation on Islam – as if only the extremists count.”

They have their work cut out for them. Just on Sunday, Syrian President Bashar Assad used the word in its pejorative sense in his first public speech in six months. He said his "criminal," al-Qaeda inspired opponents want to turn Syria into "jihad land."

In a New York Post article examining the meaning of the word jihad, Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes in 2002 provided examples of terrorist groups that used the word in their name, including:

•    The International Islamic Front for the Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders: Osama bin Laden's organization;

•    Laskar Jihad: responsible for the murder of more than 10,000 Christians in Indonesia;

•    Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami: a leading cause of violence in Kashmir;

•    Palestinian Islamic Jihad: the most vicious anti-Israel terrorist group of them all;

•    Egyptian Islamic Jihad: killed Anwar El-Sadat in 1981, many others since, and

•    Yemeni Islamic Jihad: killed three American missionaries on Monday.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad's logo

For Palestinian Islamic Jihad – which the State Department defines as a terrorist organization -- the term also has a clear meaning.

Its logo shows two rifles emerging from the dome of Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, and two fists extended in front. Between the rifles, the phrase "God is the greatest" is written in green – a clear intersection of religion and violence, evoking the concept of holy war. The map of the entire state of Israel is seen in red, making clear its ultimate jihad is to destroy Israel.

On Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s website here you can browse numerous photos glorifying the rockets and other weapons the group has used in their jihad against Israeli civilians.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad has waged its own bus campaign in Israeli cities that is, blowing up passenger buses.

Recognizing the long and bloody history associated with the word, will CAIR succeed in convincing Americans of the more innocent meaning by posting advertisements on city buses?

The PR push aims to counter Pamela Geller’s anti-jihad advertising campaign, about which TheBlaze reported last fall. Those ads, which ran in the New York subway system after a legal battle, read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” They also appeared on San Francisco buses and in the Washington, D.C. Metro.

The CAIR-sponsored MyJihad ads began appearing on buses in Chicago last month. The campaign website says it will soon be selling MyJihad t-shirts, baseball hats and mugs.

This lead photo on MyJihad.org's photo gallery shows a bus passing a Virgin Megastore

The above photo was likely an unintentional oversight by the campaign’s strategists. It is the lead photo on the MyJihad website’s photo gallery showing the “to not judge people by their cover” poster on a bus driving past a Virgin Megastore. The photo might remind viewers that some hardline Islamists believe that suicide bombers – whom they call “martyrs” – are rewarded with 72 virgins in Paradise.

On Thursday, CAIR asked journalists to stop using the term Islamist when writing about Muslim militants, explaining it is “used in an almost exclusively pejorative context.”

Watch a report on the MyJihad campaign from San Francisco’s KGO-TV here:

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