Update: Meaning of Jihad

by Steven R. Corman

Back in September I did a post arguing that we should quit calling the Bad Guys jihadis because this helps construct them as religious actors, and start calling them something else, like islamists.

Last week Menahem Milson did a post on MEMRI that gives a nice synopsis of the word jihad and its meaning in contemporary usage. He sidesteps the usual debate between “war” and “struggle” as proposed translations for the word by citing an “standard 11th grade textbook” used in Jordan and the occupied territories. It says:

Jihad is the Islamic term equivalent to the word “war” among other nations. The difference is that jihad is [war] for the sake of noble and exalted goals, and for the sake of Allah

Milson also provides a nice summary of the ideology and historical narrative that goes along with the concept. This includes a good definition of islamist that encompasses Salafis and Muslim Brothers. To reiterate the point of my earlier post, referring to these people as islamists rather than jihadis avoids framing them as holy warriors, and the label is more associated with an ideology than a religion.

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