From the Whittier Daily News comes a nice piece of self-righteous hand-wringing and half-truth about high school research papers, the Patriot Act, and jihad: "Will FBI come knocking on patriots' door?":
AS we headed to the public library to gather some information for my daughter's research paper, my husband clearly and adamantly relayed the message that we should not check out any books, whatsoever on the topic about which she had chosen to write.
My daughter initially looked at him with surprise and rebelliousness, but then a resigned expression appeared. "Oh yeah," she responded, "we're Muslim."
His fear was not unfounded because the topic she had chosen to research for her high school Comparative Religions class was "Jihad; The Conflict within Religion."
Unfortunately, current-day extremists and media have distorted the concept of Jihad and recreated the term to become synonymous with "holy war" and "terrorism."
Yes, current-day extremists and media have done it all. Never mind that Muhammad himself waged numerous battles that he termed "jihads." Never mind that the martial meaning of jihad is unmistakable in the Qur'an, Hadith, and sira. How many readers of the Whittier Daily News know that?
But of course you know whose fault it all is:
The phrase holy war was originally invented by the Christian crusaders, who used it to mean the war against Muslims. The term Jihad in the broad sense actually means "an inner struggle" as in striving to rid oneself of immoral or unethical behavior. Along the same vein, resisting unhealthy habits can also be your jihad, or struggle.
Yes, yes, jihad does not mean "holy war." It means "struggle." And there are indeed many kinds of struggles. The Islamic Republic of Iran has a Department of Agricultural Jihad. But none of that means that jihad as warfare is non-existent or an invention of the modern age.
Jihad, in its true from encompasses a much larger, moral implication than what the media has branded it.
Note that now the "current-day extremists" have vanished. Now it is all the media's fault.
Along with Jihad, the American media has recently invented a new term. This new term, jihadist, is an American neologism that has a completely different connotation to Muslims than it does to the average American. As a Muslim, I had never heard the term jihadist before the media started exercising its use, and I was not able to translate it into Arabic to have the same negative connotation as it does in English.
Well, all right, let me explain. I use the term "jihadist" as a rather loose translation of "mujahid," or warrior of jihad. It is perhaps a neologism but I think it is a rather accurate one. If it has a negative connotation, it is because the mujahedin have given it one.
In my research through Muslim and non-Muslim sources, I found no mention of the word jihadist, except for one Internet source. According to Wikipedia, an encyclopedia Web site that can be controversial, "Jihadist is sometimes used to describe militant Islamic groups, including but not restricted to Islamic terrorismÖ"
Oh, there's an unimpeachable source -- Wikipedia!
To an Arabic speaker, the term "jihadist" means one who practices jihad in order to attain a perfect level of faith.
Does it really? But I thought that you "had never heard the term jihadist before the media started exercising its use."
In fact, the Quran tells Muslims to "enjoin good and forbid evil" (Quran 3:104).
Sure. Now define "good" and "evil" in Qur'anic terms and we might be inching toward some kind of understanding.
Therefore, knowing that this term is quite complex to Muslims, it seems unjust that non-Muslims could oversimplify the principle of jihad to further a political agenda, such as the Patriot Act.
Tell it to Osama bin Laden and the legions of other jihadists around the world.
Faced with the renewal of the Patriot Act, the recent filibuster shows that there has been avid disagreement as to how to address the controversial parts of the act. The broad powers outlined in the Patriot Act are frighteningly unconstitutional in that they allow our government to create evidence that might not exist.
If, for example, my 17-year-old daughter checks out books from the library pertaining to jihad and this information is passed on to the FBI, she could be detained for questioning because her name is very obviously Muslim. This fact might also lead the FBI to wonder why she wants to learn more about jihad, which in their minds means "terrorism" and "holy war."
Aside from the tosh about the Patriot Act, I just wonder where the FBI got the crazy notion that jihad had anything to do with terrorism and holy war.
We must question ourselves about the effectiveness of our system of checks and balances if our government is given powers so broad that their evidence is based on a one-dimensional perspective of jihad.
Let's face it, if you're an FBI agent and you really don't like anything about Muslims, your objectivity about related evidence is tainted. How ironic that my daughter is so American in her culture that she would like to become Mrs. Matt Leinart, the USC Heisman-winning quarterback, but her name and her religion peg her as a potential jihadist as she searches for books in the library.
Faced with the task of becoming more knowledgeable about her religion, my daughter searched the Quran to find the exact meaning of jihad and came to this conclusion: "I think it's a good thing, mom, because I'm striving to perfect my religion."
After coming home with about 15 books on the subject of jihad, checked out from our local public library, my husband very worriedly pointed out that we might be receiving a knock on our door from the FBI. We'll let you know if they show up, but they'd better not interrupt the Rose Bowl game between USC and Texas, or they'll hear my adolescent's wrath for showing up at such an inopportune moment.
non-Muslim Semeen Issa is a teacher at an Arcadia Unified School District middle school.
I hope you do let us know if the FBI shows up. And that you'll write a more balanced follow-up if they don't.