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Friday, September 29, 2023
Sept. 29, 2023

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Letter: Word ‘jihad’ often misused


As a Muslim American, I was deeply upset to hear about the New Year’s Eve knife attack by Mr. Trevor Bickford in Times Square. In the days following the violence, news agencies began to report that Mr. Bickford was inspired by “Islamic extremism” and wanted to “carry out jihad.”

Contrary to its popular use in the media, jihad simply refers to a “struggle.” Muslims use the term foremost to discuss a spiritual struggle against one’s passions and vices. The physical version of this struggle is limited in the Quran to only defensive measures to “fight in the cause of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress” (2:191). The actions that Mr. Bickford took on New Year’s Eve were far from either of these definitions of the struggles that jihad entails. Commentators should avoid co-opting Islamic terms like jihad without nuance. Cavalier use of these terms distorts their connotations and makes the religion that millions of Muslims practice peacefully seem like a grave threat.

In this new year, I hope that society can strive, and struggle, to work on combating root causes of violence and radicalization for young men of all ideologies in our country.

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