Traditionally, in Islam, the term jihad means ‘striving in the way of God” or more simply, struggle. For many Americans, the term jihad has come to have negative and violent connotations. An advertising campaign in America’s public transport system is trying to change that.
The average American is not really sure what the meaning of jihad is.
“I actually don’t know what that word means but it sounds arabic, is it Arabic or Arabian or something like that? I actually don’t know what it means though.”
“Jihad is a term based on religion I think it is a war that is supposed to be part of some beliefs and some groups, some radical groups in the Muslim societies but it’s mostly a term based on religion.”
-Why does it mean trouble?
“… Taking advantage of people, people’s lives, their way of living just morally in all ways of life, it’s bad it’s bad, it’s the wrong way of life.”
An advertising campaign sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Chicago is trying to redefine the concept in the public’s mind.
Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Chicago:
“Jihad means to me when confronted with two choice an easy choice and the right choice, its mustering the inner courage, determination, resolve, faith and discipline in order to take on the harder choice.”
Ahmed is the founder of the MyJihad campaign and he’s frustrated that the term jihad has been co-opted by extremists.
Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director, Council on American Islamic Relations, Chicago:
“With us, being moderate being mainstream the majority representatives of this belief system that is Islam, we believe our voice ought to be at the forefront of the conversation and we think that by pushing out extremists to where they belong, on the fringes we’re doing ourselves and humanity a service.”
The MyJihad advertising campaign has run in Chicago, San Francisco and now in Washington DC. Asaf Bar-Tura is one of the individuals participating in MyJihad.
Asaf Bar-Tura, MyJihad participant:
“To talk about myself as a jihadist is not within my cultural reference I would probably use someone from my own culture to describe myself, but sure I am a person who has struggles who has passions and I try to live them out. And hold myself accountable.”
Asaf Bar-Tura is Jewish….and he sees the value in convincing others that jihad is not just a negative word.
Asaf Bar-Tura, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs:
“We live together, we share this city, we share this country and we have to work together, I think no community is an island, as a member of the Jewish community we have had our own allies, we have have sought out allies, and I think its important for us to be an ally for the benefit of other communities but also for our sense of who we are and what we stand for.”
The campaign is also enlisting social media – such as twitter – to increase awareness that jihad is not just for Muslim extremists.
The advertising campaign ran for the month of February in Washington DC…and the organizers of MyJihad hope to take their photos and their theme to other cities, trying to convince Americans that Jihad really means taking personal responsibility and struggling to make the world a better place.
– Priscilla Huff, JN1, Washington