In light of the rampant extremism and militarism around the world, nothing proves more dangerous than the manipulation of truth for political ends. This tactic facilitates the demonization process that blurs ideologies and beliefs in both the West and the Islamic world. And, no concept is more abused by both sides than the concept of Jihad.
To Muslim extremists and their cronies, Jihad is a narrowly defined license to fight their perceived enemies (including Muslims, as is the case in Somalia) even if that leads to atrocities against civilians. And to Western extremists and their cronies, Jihad is a religiously sanctioned, perpetual holy war led by militant non-state actors sworn to destroy Western values and civilization.
As Robin Wright wrote in Newsweek, a "soft Islamic revolution" is afoot among Muslim masses, seeking a more centrist (?), socially modern way to both be Muslim and a reasonable participant in the world and its trade, views, education, science, etc. That means being true to one's principles, but otherwise, neither Western nor extremist.
So in describing the meaning of the word "jihad", Mr. Arman goes for the heart of the issue:
While the concept carries different relevance for different people, the Arabic word means to strive or struggle toward achieving a higher aim, which includes the "struggle in the way of God." It can also mean to defend oneself, or to strive against injustices. Finally, Jihad means the attainment of the ultimate goal of Tazkiyatul Nafs, or purification of the soul - morally, spiritually and ethically. Indeed, it is this latter aspect, the Jihad with oneself as one resists temptations and strives against his/her evil tendencies, which Prophet Muhammad referred to as "the Greater Jihad." The purification of the soul, or simply self-purification, is an around-the-clock process of deep introspection.
Despite great achievements in the fields of science and technology; in the compilation and standardization of knowledge; and, yes, in the art of its dissemination, humanity still remains in an embryonic, if not an imbecilic, stage when it comes to morality and ethics.
As for that last point, witness the GOP...
And their creation of The Perfect Enemy out of the Muslim world would be Exhibit A for total imbecility.
In the past eight years of global political discontent, one persistent warning has been systematically ignored: When militant politics takes over the stage, reason makes a run for the exit. This was a period when people were generally herded toward one side of the argument or the other. Two nihilistic manifestos dominated the political discourse and brought the world closer to a self-fulfilling prophecy known as the "clash of civilizations": the global war on terror and the global Jihad.
The former was based on an erroneous premise that "political Islam" in all its manifestations is anti-democratic and anti-Western, and, as such, should never be afforded a space in the marketplace of ideas. Proponents of this view insisted that such movements were dangerous fronts for Muslim militants with sinister "Jihadist ambition," intent on destroying the West because of its freedom and economic success. Therefore, they were to be met at their incubation place: with "preemptive" force if they were based in foreign lands and by draconian policies if they were stationed in the West.
And Muslims didn't do any better, falling for the same sort of right-wing lies:
The concept of "global Jihad," on the other hand, was based on an opposite yet equally erroneous premise - that the West is collectively bent on destroying Islam by occupying the Islamic world: exploiting its natural resources, oppressing its peoples and Westernizing Islamic values. And as such Jihad against them is not only right, but the moral thing to do.
The proponents of this manifesto, such as Al Qaeda, selectively use the confrontational rhetoric often used by their counterparts in the West - secularist and evangelical Zionists - to lend credence to their claim. And they, too, work hard to conceal two particular realities: that Muslims are afforded more rights in the West than in most of the so-called Islamic countries when it comes to practicing their religion freely and establishing Islamic institutions; and that the Obama administration is adamant about its desire to improve relations with the Muslim world.
Note that both sides are male-dominated drives to simplify all life to a fight-to-the-death struggle against ideological Enemies. Maybe it's time for women to not only take more of the helm, but to show men that, well...
Real Men talk before they shoot. And if they do poetry, so much the better. At some point, don't men prefer to live with women and children, too? It's time to change what "jihad" means on all sides of all fences.