Why “Paper Jihad”

Mention the word jihad and images of fanatical Muslims and wholesale violence come to mind. So, naturally one might question why I decided to use the word in the title of my blog. Is this just going to be a forum where you bash America and all things Western, you might ask.

The answer is definitely no. This is going to be a forum where I address the fear and misunderstanding that surrounds Islam and Muslims. Particularly, Muslims living in America. Believe me, I thought long and hard before finally deciding to commit to the name. I had originally looked at many other candidates, but in the end the hardened critic could have found reason to criticize any of them, and I needed something that was well aligned with my mission statement. The mission of this blog is, “To combat fear and ignorance of Islam and Muslims with words of reason.” Ultimately, Paper Jihad fit the bill closer than any other I could, with my limited imagination, think of.

Jihad (جهاد) is simply a generic term for “struggle”. Of course, struggle can include warfare, but it does not necessarily mean warfare. The Arabic word for “war” is harb ( حرب). You will not find the term Holy War (الحرب المقدسة) anywhere in Islamic references.

For the record, I do not advocate any Muslim living in the West to resort to violence, especially when trying to defend or promote the Islamic religion. And frankly, it is beyond me why some wannabe mujahids can think to blow up innocent people rather than simply trying to reach out to them with words and acts of kindness. I can think of dozens of better things to do than to pull such an ignorant stunt.

But it’s easy to be angry when you are a young Muslim living in the West. You see ill-advised invasions and war, political demagogues capitalizing on public fear and prejudice of you and your religion, vocal apostates monetizing their story, heated opposition to building Islamic centers across the country, hate crimes perpetrated against Muslim women (yes, there have been several reported incidents, mainly aimed at women), the Palestinian situation, etcetera, etcetera.

It is this environment of fear and exclusion that the seeds of harm can find fertile soil. We know this is what motivates many minorities to join gangs. We know nothing good can come from this, but we as Americans continue to give an ear to the peddlers of fear and hate.

Islamophobia has become a profitable industry in the US. Books are published, speakers and conferences are paid for, even merchandising such as T-shirts bearing the words “Proud Kafir” are readily available.

It has become a political tool as well. During the 2008 presidential election, the Clarion Fund distributed over 28 million DVDs of the “documentary” Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West through direct mail and US newspapers in an attempt to influence the election. The DVD has also been distributed at various synagogues and churches throughout the US. Now, many states are moving to ban the use of shari’ah in courts, as if that were ever a threat, and populist candidates often bring anti-Muslim rhetoric into the mix.

Reason and education are the best tools, in my opinion, to fight the atmosphere of fear and ignorance. This is my humble attempt at joining the conversation.


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