Linda Sarsour and That Dreaded J-Word: Jihad

Linda Sarsour and That Dreaded J-Word: Jihad July 8, 2017

Linda sarsour on Maha fbHow did you respond to the speech of Linda Sarsour at the ISNA convention last week about Jihad? Do you believe that Jihad means ‘kill all infidels’?

Let me separate the facts from fiction on her speech and what Jihad means from an Islamic perspective, despite the right wing’s claims and propaganda.

The fact is that unfortunately some Muslims also have misconceptions about Jihad.


Linda, a fearless Palestinian Muslim American woman, and a champion for Women’s causes and a social activist, created a furor on her use of the word “Jihad” during a speech last week at the 54th annual convention of ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) in Chicago.

The right wing, conservative media had a field day (week), including, you guessed it, President Trump. They are accusing her of waging Jihad on President Trump, and thus United States of America.

The “Non-fake news” outlet Breitbart’s headlines read:

Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American anti-Israel activist who helped organize the nationwide Women’s March the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, called for “jihad,” or holy war, against the Trump administration last weekend.[1]

Fiction: (aka fake news): “Jihad , or holy war”? No she did not say anything about holy war.

Fact: She did organize the Women’s march nationwide against President Trump.

Conservative Review’s headlines were nearly identical:

Linda Sarsour, a Hamas-tied and prominent Women’s March leader, Islamic supremacist, and anti-Semite, has called for a “jihad” (Islamic holy war) against President Trump.

Fiction (aka fake news): “She is Islamic supremacist”. No, she is simply trying to protect the Muslim Americans and other communities from abuse and victims of hate and fear.

And yes, you read it correctly. That is “Hamas”, not Hummus even though Linda Sarsour unapologetically calls herself Palestinian Muslim American.

Fact: Jihad does not mean holy war. That is a Christian term, not Islamic. See below for explanation.

Fox News ‘s tweet was equally harsh. In a clear sign that she has “made it to the top”, the Fox news tweet was retweeted by no one but by President Trump himself.

Linda fox news

Who in the @DNC will denounce this activist and democrat leader calling for Jihad again trump?

The leftist media and the Muslim community came to her defense almost with equal, if not more energy.

Dalia Mogahed– Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding ISPU) in Washington, D.C fully supported Linda in her tweet.

What’s #YourJihad? Maybe it’s working for an America for All. Maybe it’s just loving your kids. #IstandWithLinda.”

Maha Elgenaidi, founder of Islamic Network Group, ING, showed her love for Linda on her facebook post.

The “jihad” in Linda Sarsour’s speech at ISNA is much (to) ado about nothing! She is being attacked only because she’s a strong Palestinian, Muslim female. While i support her activism with allies, I often disagree with her internal Muslim community messaging on what it means to be a Muslim today…..We should support her against the unfounded attacks against her. It’s gone much too far.

Wajahat Ali, a play writer, analyst and news commentator posted more than once on his facebook page.

First, please actually listen to her actual speech. You are, of course, free to disagree with her, but listen to it in context. Because, you know, details, nuances, intention, and all that messy stuff.

My first, and only meeting to date, with Linda was as the board member at the annual banquet of Islamic Scholarship Fund in Fremont, California in October 2016, where the theme of the event was “Women in politics”. Dr. Dalia Fahmi (now an ISF board member) and Rashida Tlaib were the other women on the panel.

My own perspective on her “Jihad speech” is somewhat similar to that of Maha, Wajahat and Chris Cuomo of CNN, who tweeted:

Jihad does not mean what many think – but that’s beside the point. Is what she says a problem?

Knowing how this may(or will) be interpreted, I would have loved for her to spend a couple of minutes explaining what Jihad was she referring to. hair splitting aside, I do fully support her passion and mission to strive for civil liberties, social justice and the rising wave of hate-including Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate crimes, and for Muslim Americans to get organized and be more active in civil discourse.

What did Linda actually say at the ISNA convention?

When referring to Jihad, she told a story about a man who once approached Prophet Muhammad and asked, ‘What is the best form of Jihad, or struggle?” Linda then went out to complete the narration by stating the Prophet’s answer- “A word of truth in front of a tyrant ruler or leader, that is the best form of Jihad.”

So where is this “Linda is promoting holy war against Trump” coming from?

Despite in the limelight, Jihad remains relatively poorly understood(notwithstanding the intentional misleading).I will have a future post entirely dedicated to discuss Jihad. But let me go over briefly what Jihad means in Islam- right now.

  • Jihad means “to strive” or “to struggle.” The struggle must be in the path of God (struggling to get a date for prom, for example, would not be considered jihad).
  • Jihad does not mean holy war. Holy war (Latin- bellum sacrum) is believed to be used first by Christians in the late 11th century around the beginning of the first crusade.
  • In fact ‘infidel’ is also a Christian term, not an Islamic term, used first in the 15th century  deriving from the French infidèle, while referring to anyone who does not believe in the Christian doctrine.
  • Jihad does not mean, ‘kill all the infidels’ as many right wing extremist outlets continue to propagate.
  • There are two basic forms of jihad: the nonmilitary form and the military form (qital in the Qur’an). The military struggle is in self-defense and not an act of aggression.
  • The “greater jihad” refers to personal struggles with one’s self. The “lesser jihad” refers to group struggle and includes armed conflicts.
  • The greater jihad may be in the form of standing up for social justice and civil liberties and counter oppression and bring about peace and harmony in your communities. Jihad can be accomplished by the tongue and by pen.

 Blogging on Patheos to achieve these goals is considered jihad- by me at least.

The military form of Jihad/armed struggle in Islam-some salient features:

  • Defend life and the way of God (2:190–193) and defend human rights for the oppressed and to protect the freedom to worship (22:39–41).
  • One cannot be the aggressor. It is in self-defense, when war is waged upon you (2:190, 22:39).
  • One must follow a code of conduct. If the enemy stops fighting you, you should cease hostilities (2:192–193). One must not harm noncombatants (4:90).
  • This jihad was also ordained on the Biblical prophets. King David and the Israelites struggle with Goliath was referred to as jihad.

So they put them to flight by Allah’s permission. And David slew Goliath, and Allah gave him kingdom and wisdom, and taught him of what He pleased. 2:251

Slew is a derivative of qital, the word for the military form of jihad used in the Qur’an.

Here are some verses from the Qur’an on various forms of Jihad and its intended purpose.

And fight in God’s cause against those who wage war against you, but do not commit aggression—for, verily, God does not love aggressors. 2:190

Permission (to fight) is given to those upon whom war is made because they are oppressed, and most surely God is well able to assist them. 22:39

The military struggle in the way of God to protect and rescue the oppressed was ordained in the Bible as well.

When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, is with you! Deuteronomy 20:1


Questions to my readers- Muslims and people of other faiths:

What is your Jihad? How do you plan to strive for social justice, liberty and freedom for all?

Do you still consider Jihad means ‘kill all infidels’?If so, why? If not, what if anything, changed your perspective after reading this post.


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