Muslim-Americans launch ad campaign to reclaim the word ‘jihad’

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, February 4, 2013 12:13 EDT
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A woman wearing a headscarf plays with a fake mustache and glasses. Photo: Screenshot via YouTube.
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A group of Muslim-American activists has launched an ad campaign to reclaim the often misunderstood word “jihad,” arguing that it is not an affectation of religious war, but a personal and spiritual struggle for self improvement.

The ad campaign “My Jihad” has been running for about a month in San Francisco and Chicago, mostly just on the side of buses and metro stations for now, but it also rolled out in Washington D.C. in late January. But Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), told CNN recently that he’s got his eyes set on a much bigger market: everywhere.

“[Jihad] is not aggression, and it does not mean to commit harm against other people,” he explained. “If people commit harm against innocent people, it will be in violation of the spirit of Islam and a violation of the concept of jihad.”

A blog on the “My Jihad” site, written by Hesham Hassaballa, describes in excruciating detail how his daughter succumbed to lymphoma. “There is not a day that goes by that my heart doesn’t scream out in horror that I lost my baby forever,” he explains. “Sometimes, I want to literally scream out – to try to comfort the devastating torment I endure each and every day. But I don’t, and that is my Jihad.”

Other entries on Twitter as of Monday morning included @ZahraBilloo, who wrote: “#MyJihad is challenging discriminatory (read: racist) corporate and government policies.” User @Saduf_l added: “#MyJihad is being polite to those who give me every reason not to. I must remember, Allah (swt) loves those who are kind.”

Though Awad admitted to CNN that the donor-funded campaign is facing an “uphill battle,” he said he must stand up for his faith against extremists who have used the word “jihad” to describe violence, and to Islamophobic individuals who circulate hateful propaganda. “You are trying to undo accumulation of misperception and mispractice,” Awad insisted. “Misperception by non-Muslims and mispractice by some Muslims, and I think it’s important for us to take this initiative.”

The video below is from CNN, aired Monday, Feb. 4, 2013.

The video below was published to YouTube on Dec. 13, 2013.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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