Letter to the Editor: Defining jihad

In the days since the Sept. 11 tragedy, I have heard people saying the war America is entering into is a “holy war” or a “war against Islam.” I have also heard people use the term “jihad,” treating the word as if its sole meaning is for Muslims to fight against the West. Muslims are not fighting against the West. Instead, we are suffering from the acts of terrorists just like all Americans. Jihad does not mean “religious war against the West.”

Jihad means “to struggle in the path of God.” It has two parts to it. One is to defend yourself, your family, your religion and your property from harm. The other is to struggle against your own soul. It does not mean to attack innocent people because you believe they are “infidels.” No acts of violence by terrorists should be considered jihad.

I know there are leaders that ask Muslims to prepare for jihad against the West, but they are using the word because it invokes a great sentiment in Muslims, not because they understand what jihad really means.

There are always people who take advantage of sentiments and situations. Even here, in America, people are taking advantage of Osama bin Laden being an Arab by attacking other Arabs and Muslims. In their minds, they justify their actions by claiming that all Arabs and Muslims are working with terrorists. But the majority of Americans know that it is not true, just like the majority of the Muslims do not support bin Laden.

Please do not let the horrific actions of a few stand in the way of humanity. Everyone is affected by this tragedy. Instead of focusing on anger, we need to come together as a nation. Every news channel has declared we have already united, but I think it is about time we actually do.

-Benish Shah

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