International The News: Islamic body launched MyJihad in US

WASHINGTON: An American Islamic organization criticised for pursuing an extremist agenda has launched a campaign called ‘MyJihad’ to educate proper meanings of the term.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a non-governmental organization, claims to lobby on behalf of Muslim civil rights and educate the public on issues related to Islam through media advocacy and lobbying.

The group says that the campaign launched late last week ‘is an independent national public education campaign that seeks to share the proper meaning of Jihad as believed and practiced by the majority of Muslims. Jihad is a central tenet of the Islamic creed which means struggling uphill in order to get to a better place.’

The campaign initially started in Chicago where a number of buses carry their ads that say: “My Jihad is to march on despite losing my son, what’s yours?” Another one reads: “My Jihad is to build friendships across the aisle, what’s yours?” with a picture of two women, one white and the other with a head scarf. Similarly another ad proclaims: “My Jihad is to stay fit despite my busy schedule”. And another says: “My Jihad is to not judge people by their cover.”

The word ‘Jihad’ became part of Western discourse after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when the term was associated with the fight waged by the mujahideen against the U.S.S.R., but it was after 9/11 that the term became synonymous with extremist violence against civilian targets.

The campaign was launched as an independent initiative by the group’s executive director Ahmed Rehab, according to an email sent to The News.

“Volunteers working on the campaign include activists and students, but the crux of the volunteers have been a group of working moms who are disturbed by the prospects of their children growing up in an environment of gross misinformation about Islam that sometimes spills into outright hatred,” the email said.

The campaign includes putting up public ads on buses and trains, as well as a social media component where users are asked to Tweet about their personal jihad using the #MyJihad hash-tag.

The campaign titled “My Jihad” – Public Education Campaign’ has more than 3,800 members on Facebook.

“We have been overwhelmed with the participation of people of other faiths Tweeting their struggles,” campaign volunteer Angie Emara said. “People of different backgrounds are finding a common language, they’re learning to see themselves in one another as they share similar expressions of their daily Jihad.”

The group hopes to follow up on the Chicago bus ad campaign with similar campaigns in New York, DC, San Francisco, Houston, and Seattle.