Whatever the merits of the criticism of the Tea Party, it’s a misuse of the Muslim religious term jihad and contributes to Islamophobia. Many Muslims suggest using the Muslim religious term hiraba for terrorist violence. Tearabist, people!
Jihad is a meritorious act in Islam. Before you set the FBI on me, understand that to me, and to most Muslims, jihad is effort expended for a good cause. When it involves military action, it is subject to the conditions similar to Christians’ Just War doctrines.*
any vigorous, aggressive movement for the defense or advancement of an idea, cause, etc.: a crusade against child abuse.
So why are liberal commentators using jihad pejoratively when there is an authentic Muslim term to describe terroristic violence pejoratively and an authentic English word that can carry both positive and negative connotations?
Retired Major General Perry Smith, a local columnist at The Augusta Chronicle, wrote regarding the Arab revolutionaries:
These moderate leaders are sometimes called the Arab revolutionaries counter-jihadists.
In my following of the revolutions, I’ve never seen any participant call themselves counter-jihadists, and I’ve certainly seen revolutions use Muslim religious terms like jihad to describe their efforts and shaheed (“martyr”, another term Islamophobes often distort) to describe those killed by the oppressive regimes.
- Mohammad al-Maskati, Bahrain
- Sara Abulkhair, unknown location, media jihad
- Use of the term jihad to describe the work of journalists during the revolutions
- Every mission (important task) is jihad
- Jihad against oppressive rulers is more important than jihad against external non-Muslims.
- Martyrs Behind Bars in Egypt’s Revolution
A search on the term counter-jihadist returned sites of Islamophobes, discussions of the Norwegian terrorist and non-Muslims’ descriptions of Muslims’ efforts to discourage hiraba. So I’m not sure where General Ellis came across the term.
The column is correct in that the revolutionaries’ use of mass non-violent techniques is a repudiation of hiraba. The revolutions are, in my opinion, the only effective way to end hiraba. It is certainly more effective than the measures of the United States’s Global War on Terror (GWOT).
One last point regarding General Smith’s editorial. He recommended some books at the end of the column, among them a book by Robin Wright. I’d recommend ignoring being cautious about everything Robin Wright and Thomas Friedman write.
*I personally think that changes in the nature of war have rendered nearly all forms of religiously-sanctioned war impossible to support.
P.S. Although the example I used was from the political left, the political right misuses Muslim religious terms as well.
Updated September 16, 2016: Egyptian man of letters in 1938 uses the word jihad on the tongues of his French friends.