Posted on Dec 18, 2012
Last month, ultra-conservative media darling and outspoken Islamophobe Pamela Gellar unveiled her latest project: offensive anti-Muslim ads that appeared first in New York and Washington, D.C., and eventually made their way to Chicago.
The ads read, “In any battle between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” Their offensive message was roundly condemned by many groups, including not only Muslim organizations, but Jewish, Christian and interfaith groups as well.
In response, Chicago activist and head of CAIR’s Chicago chapter Ahmed Rehab got an idea to answer the hateful ads with hopeful ones, and to engage the public in a conversation about what “Jihad” really means to ordinary Muslims—not the twisted versions of the term propagated by anti-Muslim extremists like Gellar, nor those of Muslim extremists like Osama bin Laden. Enlisting the help of award-winning photographer Sadaf Syed and over 2,000 volunteers, the #MyJihad team created beautiful ads that express what “Jihad” looks like to individual participants.
The ads are an inspiring effort to educate those who may have been taught false information about the concept of Jihad, and about Islam in general. “I don’t feel the urge to fight [Gellar’s anti-Muslim ads]. … I’d rather put out the alternative,” Rehab said. “People can decide what racism is.”
In the words of the organizers, “#MyJihad is a public education campaign that seeks to share the proper meaning of Jihad as believed and practiced by the majority of Muslims. Jihad is a central tenet of the Islamic creed which means ‘struggling in the way of God.’ The way of God, being goodness, justice, passion, compassion, et cetera (not forcible conversion as wrongly claimed by some). 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.”
According to Rehab, “Jihad in Islam simply means the struggle to a better place. Whatever barrier or burdens that you have in your life… you are tasked to muster in the inner courage, the inner resolve, the inner determination to overcome those personal barriers, personal issues.”
“#MyJihad is to march on despite losing my son,” read one ad. Another, “#MyJihad is to build friendships across the aisle.” “#MyJihad is to never settle short of my best effort.” Each individual message is an inspiring reminder of the true meaning of Jihad.
Check out some beautiful footage of the campaign participants below and see how you can help the effort on their website - myjihad.org. The team hopes to spread the campaign to New York, Houston, Seattle and beyond so you can sponsor an ad, host an event, help spread the word with social media or submit your own ad!
We love what Ahmed Rehab and his team have done. What’s your Jihad? Let us know by leaving a comment below! (And if you’re on Twitter, don’t forget to participate in the campaign by tweeting your answers with the hashtag #MyJihad!)