Finally, a new book clears it all up for us. From Straits Times:
Entitled Moderation In Islam In The Context Of Muslim Community In Singapore, the book will be launched today by Mufti Syed Isa Mohamed Semait, the highest Muslim religious authority here….
Responding to calls that moderate Muslims should speak up against acts of terrorism, some 130 religious scholars deliberated on issues and definitions that were often misunderstood. For example, the meaning of extremism and the understanding of ‘jihad’ are discussed in the book.
Understanding jihad as only engaging physically in a ‘holy war’, was a misinterpretation and led to extremism and ideologies alien to the original teaching of Islam, said Ustaz Murat.
Instead, jihad has to be understood in its ‘broader meaning, which is to make the best effort for Allah’, including self-improvement, community development or missionary work.
Do they really think that jihadists don’t know that? In Onward Muslim Soldiers, I detail how the great jihad theorists Hassan Al-Banna and Abdullah Azzam actually dismiss this argument as being based on weak hadith — that is, traditions of Muhammad that are most likely forgeries. They strongly argue that the proper meaning of jihad is warfare, and that those who argue otherwise are either ignorant or malevolent. So now the Singapore mufti is going to explain blandly that jihad means striving to be good, and not just warfare? I expect that the operatives of Jemaah Islamiyah and other radical Muslim groups in that area are well familiar with that idea already, and will regard this book with contempt.
Until the mufti actually confronts and refutes their own Islamic arguments, they will still be able to recruit freely using them.