WASHINGTON –- Ready to see more ads about jihad during your morning commute?
Just months after controversial anti-Muslim ads went on display, the nation’s capital will feature a campaign meant to redefine, in positive ways, the popular understanding of jihad.
Four Metro stations — Shaw-Howard U, Waterfront, Rockville and Dunn Loring-Merrifield — will host the My Jihad campaign, a project intended to educate residents on the proper meaning of a term largely understood to have negative and violent connotations.
“Jihad is a central tenet of the Islamic creed which means struggling uphill in order to get to a better place,” a media release about the campaign explained.
“This campaign is about representing our voices, our lives — our reality,” theorganization’s website reads. “The purpose of the campaign is to bring forth the mainstream majority of moderate voices that is often squeezed out between two extremes. The simple, yet much ignored fact is that Jihad is a positive, peaceful, and constructive practice.”
The earlier Metro ads, paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, painted jihad in a different light. “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad,” that campaign read.
“We’re troubled by how the word ‘jihad’ has been hijacked by people who…have made careers out of pushing anti-Muslim sentiment,” Zhara Billoo, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Bay Area chapter, told The Huffington Postearlier this month. “For too long people outside the Muslim community have been telling us what our religion really teaches.”
Using the Twitter hashtag #MyJihad, the organization encourages people to share their struggles — or rather, their jihads — online (as one Twitter user wrote, “#myjihad is to greet everyone I meet, even random strangers, with a smile”).
But Pamela Geller, the woman behind the “Defeat Jihad” ads who mocked the My Jihad campaign on her website, has also adopted the #MyJihad tag:
Geller told HuffPost that in light of the My Jihad campaign, she plans to run more of her own advertisements throughout town. But Dan Stessel, spokesman for the D.C. metro, claimed that there is “no advertising agreement signed for an [American Freedom Defense Initiative] ad run.”
In a 2011 Gallup poll, 48 percent of Muslims reported religious or racial discrimination in the past year, often sparking concerns that Islamophobia may disadvantage and mislabel ordinary American Muslims.
The same survey found that 52 percent of Americans believe Western societies do not respect Muslim societies. Another Gallup poll found that four in ten Americans admit to feeling at least “a little” prejudice toward followers of Islam.
Check out some of the My Jihad ads below: