Cornell Student Group Promotes Jihad As An Internal Struggle
Posted by Aniket on January 29, 2013
A student club at Cornell called the “Islamic Alliance for Justice” has launched an awareness campaign to alter and redefine the controversial word “jihad,” likening the term often associated with terrorist acts to instead mean moral struggle.
“Jihad is a human experience of internal struggle,” argues the organization’s website highlighting the campaign. “It holds a very sacred meaning in Islam, often associated with bettering oneself, achieving patience or finding balance.”
In contrast, the U.S. Department of Justice uses “jihad” to refer to the acts of terrorism perpetrated by Muslim extremists under the guise of Holy War.
But students at Cornell chide the Western media for using the word jihad “in the context of terror, portraying the word in a politicized and terrifying manner”. The Islamic Alliance for Justice describes its campaign as a struggle against Islamophobia and the alleged misappropriation of the word “jihad.”
The campaign recently culminated in “Cornell’s 161 Faces of Jihad,” a Tumblr photomontage that shows students posing with a small whiteboard on which they have written their own interpretation of jihad.
In one picture, a young woman sits on a concrete step, and smiles as she displays a whiteboard on which she has written: “My jihad is to stop trying to change the cards I was dealt, and rather the way I play my hand.”
In another photo, a young man smiles as he holds up his definition of the word: “To keep things light and happy, like whipped cream!”
Other student definitions include: “finding my voice in politics,” “being a role model to my little brother,” and “reconciling who I am with who I want to be.”
Another student offers up his definition as: “My jihad is against social injustice and apartheid. Free Palestine!”
The group notes on its Tumblr website that it was inspired to undertake the campaign in part because of recent subway ads that state: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
The mission statement of Islamic Alliance for Justice, officially described as a secular student organization, is to “raise awareness and coordinate effective response to local, national, and global issues of social, economic and political justice.”
“The Alliance engages in informational outreach activities as well as advocacy and discourse,” its official campus description states. “This club intends to both provide a way for students interested in the Muslim world to become active in the political realm, and to raise awareness of issues of injustice across campus and around the globe.”
But through social media, the group, besides championing the rights of women in the Arab world, also focuses on criticizing the “western” conception of human rights, media bias, the right of sovereign countries to engage in counterterrorism strikes and even the freedom to question religious beliefs.
Meanwhile, many students and professors have lauded its jihad campaign. Related to this, in November, another student group Students for Justice in Palestine organized the “Solidarity from Ithaca to Gaza” rally and received the support of several on and off-campus groups advocating Palestine’s independence from Israel.