Jezebel and the Broken Jihad Record

Following the lead of the always reliable Daily Mail, Jezebel recently published a post declaring how awful it is to call your child “Jihad,” suggesting that this is tantamount to naming a child “Hitler.”

Cassie Murdoch starts by drawing a parallel to the story of a New Jersey couple that named two of their children Adolf Hitler Campbell and  JoceLynn Aryan National Campbell. Murdoch links this case and with a Daily Mail story about a woman who named her baby Jihad, a word that Murdoch defines as a “religious war all followers are to wage against non-believers.” Murdoch’s quick-fire definition is not only inaccurate, it reeks of ignorance, and let’s face it: it’s just plain lazy.

Jihad is a word that many Muslims have wrestled with over the past ten years. It’s been misinterpreted, twisted, re-adjusted and scrutinised, and sometimes I get sicker of looking at those five letters than I am of the word hijab. Let us take a step back and regurgitate the first lesson from Not-All-Muslims-Are-Terrorists-101: jihad means struggle and not really the carnal holy war fantasy that keeps Pamela Geller aroused and awake at night. That isn’t to say that it cannot be used to describe something violent, but that it is complex and contested, much like any other religious word or figure. If you would like to beat a dead horse on the definition of jihad, please click here, or I don’t know: research any conversation about Islam in the past ten years.

The name “Jihad” signifies an important struggle to defend religion, or be a good Muslim, all things that would understandably be important to religious parents. And besides, Jihad is a really common name. And I mean, really common. In fact, I am sure that attendance records in our nations schools have featured that name for years, which might possibly be a sign of Shari’ah destroying our free and liberal society from within.

While I believe that it is important to be critical of Islam and any other religious institution, scrutiny through the lens of stereotypes is not a very good start, and I am disappointed to see a website that I held in such high regard perpetuate such stereotypes. Put down the Islamophobic sippy cups, Jezebel; a slow news day is never an excuse for pointless sensationalism.


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  • Sobia

    Jezebel = ugh! I’m hating that blog more and more each day. I honestly am appalled at the level of Islamophobia the editors express. This is definitely not the first time they’ve been appallingly Islamophobic. This garbage was also on there

  • Sara Yasin

    Yeah. It is ridiculous to me. I’ve been reading Jezebel for a really long time, so it’s been really tough for me to fall out of love with a website that I thought was a safe space for me. *sigh*

  • Miss B.

    I was aware of the true meaning of “jihad” (as a non-Muslim), however, I think the parents should consider how people will react to their child in a country where the majority will have negative connotations for a name. too much of a weight to carry for a child! cannot possibly be the person who’ll have to explain right, left and front for the next 50+ years what it really means.
    like, in Hungary an English couple should not name their kids Ross and Ronda, because they mean Bad and Ugly in the local lingo – and who cares about the original intention.

  • Sara Yasin

    I hate to break this to you, but many many things about Muslims are perceived in a negative way, and many of us will have to explain things for a long time anyways. In the same line of thinking, maybe Muslims should avoid wearing hijab, praying in public, or really—doing anything perceived to be too “Muslim.”

    I’m absolutely sick and tired of the idea that being a Muslim American involves regurgitating and repackage one’s lifestyle in order to avoid trampling on the Islamophobic sensibilities of others. The fact that the name Jihad is misinterpreted is not the problem of the average Muslim–it is the problem of the person that decides to project their own prejudices onto the word.

    Quite frankly, I think it is really lame that you are still standing by this baloney.

  • Alex C

    Thanks for this post, I’ll admit my first introduction to the word, and concept, of Jihad came from the Dune novels and has always been my initial point of reference. I suppose like “zionist” there are nuances involved in how it is used, and to an extent, by whom. Struggle as a name can mean many things, the majority positive, and hopefully this child will be able to educate people by explaining this. I struggle to see the comparison with “Adolph Hitler” and “Aryan Nation” though, that’s pretty much like, well, just tattoo swatikas and Nordic runes in yourself, leave the kids alone.

  • Sara Yasin

    @Miss B: Sorry—some part of me assumed that you were the author of the original piece. Sorry for the sassy sign off on my comment!

  • Miss B.

    I was a little taken aback by your response – nope, it wasn’t me –
    I work with Muslims, I teach Muslim kids at school, I have a lot of respect for them, I am interested in a lot of issues and that’s why I am reading this website regularly. I don’t live in the US, never been, cannot comment on that.
    I have nothing against the hijab, prayer or many other things that are non-negotiable or an integral part of your identity. but a name is optional, why compound the existing hardship by putting extra burden on a child if it is easily avoidable. if you grow up, convert and choose that name, your business. but little kids are fragile. that was my only point, nothing more. I apologise if I pissed you off.

  • Samira Kozera

    Love your blog!