Campus Progress: What Does The Word Jihad Mean To You?

The Council on American-Islamic Relations sponsored an educational campaign to reframe the way people view the word “jihad.” The ads feature primarily young people with slogans like “My Jihad is to build bridges through friendship” and “My Jihad is to stay fit despite my busy schedule.” So far the campaign has been launched in Chicago, D.C., San Francisco, and Cairo.

MyJihad says it is trying to reframe the word jihad to mean “struggling in the way of God. The way of God, being goodness, justice, passion, compassion, etc (not forcible conversion as wrongly claimed by some).” The campaign also uses social media to allow people to submit their own jihads through Facebook and Twitter: “My jihad is to be grateful for the little blessings of nature.”

But now the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a pro-Israel group, launched its own series of ads in response to the MyJihad campaign. The ads are similar to the MyJihad campaign but they feature text like “Killing Jews is worship that draws us closer to Allah.” An ad featuring Osama bin Laden quotes him as saying, “The first thing we are calling you to is Islam.” The ads end with: “That’s his jihad. What’s yours?”

The AFDI has been running ad campaigns like this since last year, when they ran a series of ads on the New York subway system that used the word “savage” to describe critics of the Israeli state. The ad read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” The Metropolitan Transportation Authority tried to reject the ads, citing its policy on demeaning language, but the MTA was overruled by a judge.

Zahra Billoo of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said that the AFDI’s tactic of running ads on buses makes Muslim bus riders actively worried for their safety.

In response to criticism from city officials, AFDI has tailored the newest iteration of their campaign to the city of San Francisco because they see it as a “a mecca…to the gay community.” The new ads specifically denounce Islam as anti-gay.

The AFDI is currently raising money to run their ads in every major US city; so far they’ve made $3,459 of their $50,000 goal.