Over the past few years the western media has often referred to the term “jihad” to signify the duty of Muslims to wage a holy war against western infidels in the name of Islam. Accordingly, we have come to believe that Muslims view jihad as a legitimate call to arms to protect Islam and its central tenets from any unjust oppression. This of course, provides westerners with a very distorted view of Islam and its followers. To us, it seems absurd and even hypocritical for so-called religious warriors to wage war and kill with impunity any who do not share their fundamental religious beliefs. We are left to wonder how those who profess to act in the name of god can hold such little regard for the lives of others, including other Muslims.
My first inclination was that our idea of jihad as a holy war must be a distortion of that term by the western media for their own purposes to sensationalize the current conflicts in both Afghanistan and Iraq. However, Muslims do believe in a jihad as a legitimate call to arms in the name of god for the defence of Islam. Such a concept is recognized in the Koran and is held as a belief by Muslims throughout the world.
Unfortunately, what the western media fails to teach is that this is only one interpretation of that term and does not provide a complete picture of what is meant by jihad. According to Islam there are various types of jihads. The Great Jihad, as taught but Islam, is a struggle with oneself to lead a life that is pure in thought and action. It is an internal battle with oneself to be righteous and of good moral character. It is forgiveness for those that have wronged you and seeking forgiveness from those you have wronged. It recognizes that as humans, we are imperfect, but that we should strive to live a life that is virtuous and honorable.
But sadly, it is not just the western media that provides a distorted view of the concept of jihad. Religious fanatics who have taken up the cause to oppose western intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq have also purposely misconstrued this concept to incite hatred and mislead impressionable followers that the fight against the west is a just cause in the name of Islam. By doing so, they convince others that this war is being fought in defence of Islam and that those who answer the call to arms are fighting for an honorable cause and will be rewarded in the life that follows. It is propaganda that has a tremendous effect on those who are uneducated and impressionable. Especially in a culture that holds religion in such high regard.
Within the next few days I will be reaching the halfway mark of my tour in Afghanistan. To date, it has been one that is extremely interesting and has exposed me to new cultures, new beliefs and a completely different outlook on life. There is little doubt in my mind that the second half of this adventure will be as rewarding as the first.