LISTEN TO TLR’S LATEST PODCAST:
After Islamic activist Linda Sarsour gave a keynote speech for the Islamic Society of North America on July 1st, declaring Jihad against the current administration, many are confused on exactly what she meant. Some have claimed it to mean a personal struggle, while others have claimed that she meant waging a legitimate Holy War. Through analyzing three separate definitions given by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as well as Linda Sarsour herself, we will try to gain some clarity as to what she said, why she said it, and what it really meant.
Merriam-Webster, one of the most trusted dictionaries as of now, has a number of different definitions for the word Jihad. It’s definitions include “a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty”. “A personal struggle in devotion of Islam especially involving a spiritual discipline”. Finally, the last definition given is “A crusade for a principle or belief.” (Merriam-Webster, 2017).
Lets analyze all three of them.
A Holy War Waged On Behalf of Islam as a Religious Duty.
The first definition would be the traditional one attributed to acts of terrorism. Those radicalized have come to believe that commiting acts of violence is not only justified, but also a religious duty. Since unlike the old and new testaments, the word of the Qu’ran is considered the word of god, fanatics interpret some of what’s in there literally. This is the definition that we’re watching out for, and we will revisit this soon.
A Personal Struggle in devotion of Islam especially involving a spiritual discipline.
The second definition is the one people who support Linda Sarsour are claiming is the true definition, and the one that she uses. Claiming “Jihad” to be a personal struggle instead of a literal holy war seems to completely change the dynamic behind the word. Now, something that most people see as being linked to terror and war is poetic, and bold. Although the definition is legitimate, it is not the one most attribute to the term Jihad.
A Crusade for a Principle or Belief.
The third definition could realistic fall under anything. It is less tightly bound when compared to the other two, and it can be used by anyone for anything. A question one should ask before using this definition is whether or not it’s realistic. Is my crusade for liberty a “Jihad?” Seriously…?
Loose definitions are especially worrisome because it legitimizes words that should be considered illegitimate.
So, What exactly was Sarsour trying to get at here?
Throughout my research on Sarsour I have discovered two things about her. It is important to realize that though her ideas could be seen as controversial, she isn’t stupid. How she presents herself strategically is very intelligent, and her alliance with the left (which is confusing because Islam and the Left have completely opposite views on tons of issues) shows that she is clever politically.
Sarsour is also well read in Islamic text and I truly believe she understands the many different forms and definitions of “Jihad.” She is very careful to tie in her Islamic beliefs to Leftist-friendly beliefs and movements such as the BDS movement, which is Anti-Israeli and Pro-Palestinian. This careful mixing of Leftist and Islamist beliefs is especially dangerous when the word Jihad is included, because it could mean something totally different towards each and every audience. I certainly think that Linda, being a smart woman, knows this.
What about freedom of speech?
Despite my numerous issues with Linda and her usage of this word, she is entitled to the same rights as everyone else given by the Constitution. This being said, the word installs fear in many people including myself, and if someone declared Jihad in public, I doubt anybody would think they are talking about a personal struggle. Most people would grab their bags, children, dogs, and run.
A declaration of “Jihad” could easily mean the second definition to some and the first to others, and this is why a serious conversation about this word is so important.