Any given word is followed by certain connotative definitions that are often more powerful than the denotative meaning.
Associations provide the basis for the ideas, opinions and emotions that a word provokes.
It is possible, and done all too frequently, for people to hijack words in order to create certain meanings in the public eye that are more suitable for their cause.
For example, the simple utterance of Islam, for some, arouses feelings of terror. In truth, Islam is nothing more than a monotheistic religion with a core set of beliefs closely related to those of Christianity or Judaism.
However, it is often categorized as a religion typified by hate based solely on irrational emotions drummed up by a fear-mongering elite, many who have it in their own self-interest to incite such feelings.
These people create innumerable negative connotations behind Islam’s most essential and fundamentally nonviolent pillar.
In this respect, the term “jihad” has undergone an alteration in meaning for Western individuals as it is taken out of the religious context from which it originates. “Jihad,” as denoted in the all-knowing lexicon of the English language, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, is “a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty.”
For many in the Western world, this scary word recalls horrific images of Sept. 11 or of extremists hanging off of humvees wielding RPGs in a remote desert somewhere in the Middle East or al-Qaeda members covered by traditional dress.
These are the connotations that have been instilled in many in regards to the religion of Islam and the term “jihad.” Stereotypes such as those above are promulgated through falsehoods in the media as well general everyday understanding in America and other Western counties.
Just as radical groups such as the Ku Klux Klan have hijacked Christian values to use as justification for their own acts of terror, various off-shoots of Islam have commandeered fundamental ideals of the religion and suggested principles aggression rather than peace.
An increasing number of Muslims believe, however, that a shroud of zealous, religious warfare hides the true, spiritual meaning of “jihad.”
Jihad does indeed entail waging war in the name of Islam, but it is a war within each believer’s own self. It calls upon all Muslims to fight the oppressive forces that can consequently torment believers, in turn keeping them from entering Jannah, the Islamic perception of paradise after death. At its root, the association that “jihad” entails waging holy war against non-believers is simply propaganda to recruit and promote the idea of Islam being an evil, oppressive religion.
MyJihad, a public education campaign bearing the slogan “Taking back Islam from Muslim & non-Muslim extremists alike,” describes jihad in a much more befitting manner: “Jihad is a central tenet of the Islamic creed which means ‘struggling in the way of God’…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.”
It is with this association that we are able to truly see the peaceful intentions behind the religion practiced by nearly 25 percent of the world’s population.
And it is also with this alternate connotation of “jihad” that Americans are able to understand the ability for eloquence and language manipulation to affect public opinion.
MyJihad’s major objective is to enlighten people about the misconceptions perpetrated by those with influence that run afoul with the basic principles of Islam.