Op-Ed Contributors – What Do You Call a Terror(Jihad)ist? – Op-Ed – NYTimes.com
The word “jihad” means to “strive” or “struggle,” and in the Muslim world it has traditionally been used in tandem with “fi sabilillah” (“in the path of God”). The term has long been taken to mean either a quest to find one’s faith or an external fight for justice. It makes sense, then, for terrorists to associate themselves with a term that has positive connotations. For the United States to support them in that effort, however, is a fundamental strategic mistake.
This op-ed combines two interests of mine: a) the importance of framing the issue properly, and b) the need for us in the West to understand and respect the Islamic world.
To call our fight against terrorists a “war on terror” was an enormous strategic and psychological blunder for the United States. Criminals have no honor, but warriors do. To call our fight a “war” gave terrorists dignity they do not deserve, and saying they are fighting a “jihad”–a holy struggle–even more so.
It’s sad that we were woken out of our slumber by pseudo-Islamic terrorists with no respect for the message of the Koran. Now we know that we need to do more to understand the Muslim world, but our impressions of it have been shaped by those terrorists and by bigots nudging us to bomb Mecca for the hell of it. So, “jihad”–a sacred struggle, internal or external–and “intifada”–a shaking off–have been defined in our minds by people who do nothing but vandalism to the words of Prophet Muhammad. Michelle Malkin even went nuts over a traditional Arab scarf. Clearly, something has to give.
We cannot let a billion people be defined by the people least qualified to represent them: Islamic terrorists and Western racists. Make some effort to learn about Islam. I listened to Muhammad: Prophet for Our Time, by Karen Alexander, on audiobook. I recommend that, but you can find your own way. It’s all part of being a good citizen.