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the Message continues 3/42





Article 3

Article 1 - Article  2 - Article  3 - Article  4 - Article  5 - Article  6 - Article  7 - Article  8 - Article  9 - Article 10

Article 11 - Article 12 - Article 13 - Article 14 - Article 15


" According to the Qur'an, the holy text of Islam, the Almighty does not  reward the murder of innocent people. Nor does the Creator condone suicide -- as  in suicide bombings. Terrorism is sociopath. In secular terms, it is criminal  behavior. In religious terms, it is blasphemy to claim cold-blooded murder in  the name of God. It is not jihad. " --the Author

Let's rescue a once-beautiful word from its captors 
courtesy: The Star Ledger, Wednesday, December 29, 2004 


I'm picky about words. Maybe it's because I'm the daughter of an English 
teacher. Maybe because I went to journalism school. Or maybe it's because I've 
always wanted to show Henry Higgins he doesn't have a corner on the English 

Words are powerful. They can save lives or destroy them; make truth of  falsehood and weave tapestries about our society, our safety (remember weapons of  mass destruction?) and who our enemies are. 

Words can hurt, too. Almost as badly as sticks and stones. 

I remember in 11th grade an English teacher at the High School of Music and  Art in New York began shouting hysterically in the hallway at a Jewish friend  and me: "She's an A-rab! An A-rab!" The message was to my friend: Get away from  her. We both exited. Shocked. Stung. My heart hurt for a long while after that. 

Years later I worked on a CBS News magazine team looking at American 
involvement in Lebanon in the 1980s and the attack on the Marine barracks in'83. One 
version of the script called it a "terrorist attack." I argued that the attack  was against soldiers, not civilians. As journalists, it's our job to clarify,  and we must distinguish terrorism from acts of war. Besides, Arab- American  kids had it tough enough already, with the words "terrorist" and Arab virtually  synonymous in our media. It wasn't fair that an attack on the military should  be called terrorism just because Arabs committed it. Eventually the script  line was changed to "surprise attack." 

But 20 years later not much else has changed. Except now we abuse even more  words, foreign words, that we don't understand. 

As a Muslim of Arab descent, I feel the wrath of one particularly abused word  every day: jihad. News reports about "jihad" or "holy war," bear the unspoken  insinuation that because of my background I am connected with the terrorism  that abounds; that my way of worshipping God is a threat to our national  security; that it's okay to go after others with my background -- before they come  after us. 

So let me clarify. I'm not. It isn't. And it's not okay. 

For me growing up, "jihad" was a beautiful word. Jihad was the effort you  made to do your best in school; your struggle to polish the talents God gave you;  how you strived to live up to your parents' and your own highest  expectations; to lead a life acceptable to the Almighty. 

So, people flying planes into buildings, beheading hostages in Iraq and  fomenting hatred against people of other religions -- that's not jihad! 

According to the Qur'an, the holy text of Islam, the Almighty does not reward  the murder of innocent people. Nor does the Creator condone suicide -- as in  suicide bombings. Terrorism is sociopathic. In secular terms, it is criminal  behavior. In religious terms, it is blasphemy to claim cold-blooded murder in  the name of God. It is not jihad. 

What's a journalist to do? The good news is we can call a spade a spade. 
There is an Arabic word for these crimes against individuals and crimes against  humanity, and the word is "hiraba." War against society. 

People who are following God or practicing jihad do not join war against  society. Terrorists serve Satan, if anything. They are bad people, criminals in a  secular sense and blasphemers in the sacred. Just because they think they're  on God's side doesn't mean the American media and our government PR folks need  concur! But by parroting their misuse of the word "jihad," that's just what  we're doing. 

There is nothing "holy" about war. There is no jihad in terrorism. Only  hiraba. 

So what happens if we call a spade a spade? Think of the disincentive to  young, hungry, cynical Muslims -- angry at their own governments and angry at ours  for bolstering theirs. If they heard "hiraba" instead of "jihad," if they  heard "murder" instead of "martyr," if they heard they were bound for hell not  heaven, they might not be so quick to sign up to kill themselves and a handful  of so-called "infidels" along the way. 

We know words are powerful. After all, we attacked Iraq for a mere acronym: 
WMD. So those of us concerned with accuracy should use our mightier-than-  the-sword pens and keyboards and get the word "hiraba" out there. 

Someday, I hope, "jihad" will find its way back into our lexicon, used  properly, in sentences like "she's on a jihad to achieve the American dream." 

In the meantime, people like me, performing jihad in our own ways -- being  patient with our kids, volunteering in our communities, practicing our  professions to the best of our abilities, can walk free of guilt by association with  those engaged in hiraba. 

Anisa Mehdi is a journalist and filmmaker living in Maplewood. She produced  and directed "Inside Mecca" for National Geographic Specials in 2003 and is  developing documentaries on Muslim-Christian relations and on Muslim women. 



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