Lately, the DC Metro station has become a battleground of ideas about Jihad. First, the Defeat Jihad anti-Muslim ad campaign, and now a fresh ad campaign by Muslims; the “#MyJihad” nation-wide campaign aims to clarify what scholars and mainstream Muslims believe the term Jihad means.
Many Muslims are scared to use the word jihad due to the stigma attached to it. In an effort to take back the word that has been hijacked by extremists on both ends of the spectrum, Ahmed Rehab, an activist in Chicago and a group of his friends launched a campaign. CAIR Chicago initially helped sponsor this campaign along with private donors, but it is promoted by ordinary Muslims who are not affiliated with any specific organization, says Rehab.
Ads showing everyday Muslims talking about their daily struggles and asking the viewers “What is Yours?”
On the website, MyJihad.org explains “for Muslim and anti-Muslim extremists (who ironically are on perfect agreement) jihad is synonymous with terrorism, blowing up things and spilling innocent blood.” The site adds “For many others, including members of the media and academia and even some Western dictionaries, jihad is often mistranslated simply as ‘holy war.’”
The campaign notes that “the “My” in #MyJihad is as important as the “Jihad.” The purpose of the campaign is to bring forth the mainstream majority moderate voice that is often squeezed out between two extremes.”
The campaign asks ordinary Muslims to challenge the ideology and misrepresentation. “Jihad is a central tenet of the Islamic creed which means struggling uphill in order to get to a better place.” The campaign does not shy away from acknowledging that jihad can be physical and armed but within the right circumstances and context.
In the District, the ads are displayed at four Metro stations – Shaw-Howard U, Waterfront, Rockville and Dunn Loring-Merrifield and will run for four weeks.
American Muslim blogger, Sheila Musaji writes, “There are only two groups who equate jihad and terrorism – the terrorists and the Islamophobes. There is an extremist element within the Muslim community that attempts to spread their extremist interpretations of Islam which claims that they can justify criminal acts as “jihad”.
Angie Emara, the mom on one of the ads and a volunteer in the campaign says her jihad is overcoming the void that the death of her son has left in her life. “Jihad is a struggle to overcome adversity. Jihad is an honorable thing. It’s something that causes one to become better- to reach a more elevated state- in whatever one is struggling with. My jihad is to push through the loss of my son to care for my other son with the same disease and simultaneously care for my other children.”
This is a long-term global project intended to educate people on the proper meaning of a term largely understood to mean holy war. “This is everyone’s campaign,” Emara says that even non-Muslims supporters have taken up the task of normalizing the word and make it a part of their jargon.
The campaign launched on December 14, 2012 in Chicago. The campaign photographer is award-winning photojournalist, Sadaf Syed. Over two thousand other participants have already contributed to the #MyJihad campaign. YouTube videos and speaking events are part of the campaign.
Anyone can sponsor an ad for only $500. The campaign urges supporters to sponsor their own bus, alone or with friends. On Twitter, there is a daily jihad against Anti-Muslim bigots. Anti-Muslim blogger, Pamela Geller who makes six figures selling hate and propaganda has been using the #MyJihad campaign to spread the work of these extremists around the globe. However, a majority of the tweets read of daily struggles, fighting desires, grand visions and overcoming calamities. Join in.
The writer is a member of the #MyJihad Campaign.