Misuse Of “Jihad”

Just because the term “jihad” is misused by some Muslims for their political agenda, Muslims don’t have to abandon this noble concept of their faith. While talking about jihad, I have heard many Muslims describing only the major (spiritual) jihad and shying away from the minor jihad in the sense of armed struggle for defense. As Muslims, we stand by our teachings and don’t need to apologize for it even if some misguided souls hijack the terms of our faith for their own political ends.

It is not only the likes of Bin Laden who hijack and misuse the noble terms of Islam; we have even seen the government of the United States of America promoting the concept of minor jihad when it suited its own geopolitical interests.

During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 80’s, the U.S. Agency for International Development spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan school children with textbooks filled with violent images and “militant Islamic” teachings. Published in the dominant Afghan languages of Dari and Pashtu, these textbooks were developed in the early 1980s under an AID grant to the University of Nebraska-Omaha and its Centre for Afghanistan Studies. The agency spent $51 million on the university’s education programs in Afghanistan from 1984 to 1994.

The primers, which were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then as the Afghan school system’s core curriculum. Unlike the children in the rest of the world whose math textbooks have pictures of apples and oranges, the Afghan children were taught to count with illustrations showing tanks, missiles and land mines.1

And so when it suited its strategic interests, the United States of America promoted the culture of jihad among the Afghan children in the 80’s and President Reagan even welcomed the Afghan “mujahideen” in the While House. (Even the Taliban used the American-produced books, though the radical movement scratched out human faces in keeping with its strict fundamental code.) Now that that culture of violence has come to haunt it, the US administration is absolutely against the idea of jihad and expects Muslims to abandon that concept in totality.

Muslims cannot be expected to change their views on the noble concept of jihad just because of some misguided Muslims or some world powers’ misuse of that term. Muslims should strongly condemn the misuse of jihad and confidently affirm the concept of jihad as explained in the Qur’an and the noble examples of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

  • 1. Information on US financed “jihadi culture” is based on the article of Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway, “From U.S., the ABC’s of Jihad” in Washington Post, March 23, 2002, page A01.

    The so-called “jihadi culture” (which should be rightly named as “kalashnikov culture” of Afghanistan) not only came to haunt US itself; it also breed militancy in the sectarian Sunni group of Pakistan like Sipah-e Sahaba and now shows its ugly face, through the vehicle of al-Qaeda, in Iraq also.