KGO ABC 7: SF buses help teach what 'jihad' really means

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — Buses in San Francisco are carrying messages of jihad, but it’s not what you might think. It’s a campaign to educate residents about the real meaning of the word. It’s a campaign that began in Chicago and has now reached the Bay Area.

One statement on the side of a Muni bus reads: “My jihad is to stay fit despite my busy schedule. What’s yours?”

It’s part of an educational campaign created by CAIR — the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The group has put 35 ads on buses rolling through the streets of San Francisco.

“The intention of the campaign is to educate our fellow Americans about what the word jihad means,” said Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the Bay Area office for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. She said, “A common misconception of the word jihad is that it means armed struggle or holy war and that is something that has been perpetrated by many who’ve made careers out of pushing anti-Muslim sentiment.”

We asked some Muni riders if they knew the definition of jihad. Most of the answers we got were “a religious war” and “a holy war”.

Miriam Webster also defines it as a holy war, but it lists a second definition — one that Billoo says is much more appropriate.

“The proper meaning of jihad as many of us frequently describe it is to struggle. And that’s it. For many, that is anything from building relationships with their neighbors to making it to work on time or doing better on their diets,” said Billoo.

It’s a meaning many don’t know.

“I didn’t know the definition either. It’s interesting to be educated on it,” said one Muni rider.

But Muni rider Nicholas Thomas doesn’t know how big an impact the ads will make. He said, “I think for so long it’s been ingrained in people’s heads that it has such negative connotation, that I think that’s sort of rooted in people and that for that idea to change, it would probably take a little bit more than just people talking about it.”

The ads will remain on the buses through the third week of January and the organization says they wouldn’t mind expanding to other Bay Area transit agencies.