MyJihad is a public education campaign that seeks to share the proper meaning of Jihad as believed and practiced by the majority of Muslims.
Jihad is a central tenet of the Islamic creed which means “struggling in the way of God“. The way of God, being goodness, justice, passion, compassion, etc (not forcible conversion as wrongly claimed by some).
As Muslims, we are taught to put forth a concerted and noble effort against injustice, hate, misunderstanding, war, violence, poverty, hunger, abuse or whatever challenge big or small we face in daily life, with the purpose of getting to a better place.
While the struggle for justice may be physical (as a last resort, and even then it ought to be a just struggle that goes above and beyond observing the universal code of conduct and rules of engagement), the greatest Jihad is that of the self, a fact often ignored by, or unknown to, many. In more than one sense, Jihad is more about peace and education than anything else. The highest form of scholarly pursuit (the complex, tiring but important scholarly work of Muslims to decipher their faith and its relation to the world around them) is referred to in Islam as ijtehad which by no coincidence is derived from the same root word as Jihad (jahada meaning “to exert effort.”)
Jihad is a personal commitment to service, patience, determination, and taking the higher road, as such, it tasks us with confronting our own weaknesses, vices, and shortcomings; it is about taking personal responsibility.
Jihad is a term that has unfortunately been widely misrepresented due to:
a) first and foremost, the actions of Muslim extremists
b) attempts at public indoctrination by Islamophobes who claim that the extremists are right and the rest of us are wrong
c) a selective media that understandably focuses on the sensational
For Muslim and anti-Muslim extremists (who ironically are on perfect agreement), Jihad is synonymous with terrorism, blowing up things, and spilling innocent blood. This campaign is about reclaiming our faith and its concepts from these extremists, both Muslims and anti-Muslim, as well as their cheerleaders and clap-trappers, all of whom have for too long now effectively hijacked and dumbed-down the conversation about Islam and Muslims.
For many others, including members of the media and academia and even some Western dictionaries, Jihad is often mistranslated simply as “holy war.” This campaign is also about pushing for an intelligent and informed understanding of Islam and its concepts and practices in the media, the educational circles, and the public.
Most of all this campaign is about representing our voice, our lives — our reality. The “My” in MyJihad is as important as the “Jihad.” The purpose of the campaign is to bring forth the mainstream majority moderate voice that is often squeezed out between two extremes.
The simple, yet much ignored fact is that Jihad is a positive, peaceful, and constructive practice in the lives of everyday Muslims whose reality has long been excluded from the conversation on Islam – as if only the extremists count. For moms and dads, teachers and students, professionals and laborers, Jihad is putting up the good effort against daily challenges that make life difficult.
Jihad is not only a struggle to overcome one’s own challenges. Often it is about helping others overcome their challenges. Muslims put their best Jihad by leading, serving, and inspiring others towards positive change in various social causes. In Chicago, for example:
- Jihad against urban and inner-city problems: IMAN (Inner-City Musilim Action Network)
- Jihad against expensive and inaccessible health care: UMMA Clinic (offering free health care)
- Jihad against poverty: Zakat Foundation
- Jihad against domestic violence: Hamdard Center
- Jihad against a lack of opportunity for poor women: Grameen Foundation and Grameen Bank
- Jihad against misunderstanding: Celebrate Mercy
- Jihad against the faith divide: IFYC (Interfaith Youth Core)
- Jihad against discrimination & hate: CAIR-Chicago
- Jihad against human rights violations: Karamah- Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights
- Jihad against hunger: Sabeel Pantry
More examples abound in Chicago, the US, and globally.
The MyJihad educational campaign includes:
a) Sponsoring public ads on buses & trains in cities across the US and possibly in other countries
b) The use of #MyJihad hashtag on twitter where tweeters are invited to share what their struggles are (e.g. “#MyJihad is so and so”)
c) A Facebook fan page for an interactive community discussion about ideas and projects
d) Youtube videos that include official MyJihad campaign videos, educational speeches and interviews, as well as videos featuring user-participation
e) Speaking events and other initiatives. This is more than an ad campaign or a social media buzz.
The MyJihad educational campaign was founded by Chicago activist Ahmed Rehab as an independent initiative which, in its founding stage, was sponsored by CAIR-Chicago (of whom Ahmed is Executive Director) and currently is supported by many other organizations and individuals, both locally and nationally. The project is expected to take on a life of its own. The crux of the MyJihad team are students, as well as working moms (led by Naperville mom Angie Emara) who are disturbed by the prospects of their children growing up in an environment of gross misinformation about Islam that sometimes spills into outright hatred such as with the Geller ad campaigns. The campaign photographer is award-winning photojournalist, Sadaf Syed (www.sadafsyed.com). Over two thousand other participants have already contributed to the MyJihad campaign.
This is a movement of self-expression. Join us!
“I’ll be patient, until even patience tires of my patience.” ~Imam Ali Ibn Abi Taleb