Since the World Trade Center towers fell in 2001, almost anything having to do with Islam or the Muslim culture has become an automatic “go-to” for blame. Nervous Americans have turned terms used by Muslims into synonyms for “terrorism.” The question that has to be asked is how is the Muslim community reacting to these anti-Islamic extremists?
Last year a campaign known as MyJihad was launched to reclaim one of these terms. “Jihad” is a tenet of the Islamic creed that means “struggling in the way of God.”
Extremist slandering by anti-Islamic groups and media getting caught up on the sensationalism of hate rants have damaged the reputation of Muslim-Americans. Instead of meaning a righteous struggle, jihad has become synonymous with terrorists planting bombs and massacring people in the name of Islam.
The MyJihad campaign is meant to share the real struggles of Muslims across the United States. Ads that say “My jihad is to not take the simple things in life for granted” have begun appearing on the sides of buses and on billboards in an attempt to inform the public on the real meaning of jihad.
The campaign’s overall goal is to educate the general public with a meaningful definition using the real stories of Muslims to represent what jihad means.
Opponents to the campaign are claiming that the ads are deceptive and cynical. Anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller even went as far as purchasing ad spaces in New York City subway stations that showed an image of the World Trade Center towers on fire alongside passages of the Quran that mention “unbelievers.” She was quoted saying that she will keep her campaign going as long as it takes.
This prompted the Council on American-Islamic Relations to buy a response ad that shows a girl in a hijab with the phrase “Show forgiveness, speak for justice and avoid the ignorant.”
The campaign is going to be an uphill battle. It has been 12 years since the tragedy of 9/11 and the Muslim community is still waiting to be accepted and not be stereotyped every time they walk through a door. The Japanese went through the same experience after World War II, but they were able to over come the adversity, so can the Muslims.
It is important however that people not cut themselves off from what they are trying to communicate. The actions of the few people who participated in a horrible tragedy cannot be taken as the only evidence of Islam.
The main point of reclaiming a word that is precious and not violent is a great thing. Ignorance is bliss when it comes to the violent acts that are committed by the misinformed but the MyJihad campaign is offering to educate the masses with facts rather than angry rants. It is time for support to be given to this campaign so they can succeed in eliminating Islamophobia.