This Pakistan Times op-ed by Yamin Zakaria contains familiar moral equivalency arguments, but it is notable for what it says about the meaning of jihad. It’s a bit different from the sanitized version offered by Muslim spokesmen in the West. (Thanks to Twostellas.)
Jihad can be both defensive and offensive, preferably by the Islamic state. At times, the distinction between the two modes of operation is blurred, depending on the political and military situation. At present it may be academic to discuss offensive Jihad, as the Islamic state does not exist in the world today. In addition the Muslims are facing an onslaught in their own lands, but nevertheless, it is worth examining it briefly to clarify some of the misconceptions.
The Islamic state reserves the right to use military force against foreign states that engage in persecuting Muslims or, preventing the spread of Islam within their lands. Note, in principle there is no concept of forceful conversion of non-Muslims to Islam. Even today, there are non-Muslims in most of the majority Muslim countries.
Note that jihad should “preferably” be waged by the Islamic state — evidently, under some conditions others can wage it as well. Also, Zakaria’s point about forced conversion is absolutely true: forced conversion is against Islamic law. Under Islamic law, which is not fully enforced in most majority Muslim states today, non-Muslims are allowed to live in Islamic states as inferior dhimmis.
In any case, this understanding of jihad is used by radical Muslims worldwide today to justify their actions.