Volume 95, Issue 47
Friday, November 23, 2001
Muslim prof discusses jihad and holy war
Islamic word misunderstood
By Mike Marinett
Yesterday, a member of Western's Muslim community attempted to clarify the true nature of the Islamic faith and distance the religion from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
A lecture hosted by Western's Muslim Students' Association explored the meaning of the Islamic word, "jihad."
Munir El-Kassem, a dentistry professor and spokesman for the MSA, said jihad has been misunderstood in Canadian society, specifically by the mass media.
El-Kassem said he believed the true meaning of jihad has been corrupted over time. The word does not mean "holy war" and the misinterpretation of the word is the result of a single historical event, he said.
"The reason for attributing holy war to jihad dates back to the end of the 11th Century, when crusaders from Europe came to Muslim lands while trying to get rid of the 'infidels.' The people rose to defend themselves and their lands, declaring their defense as jihad," he said.
The event was the first time in Islamic history the term had been used to describe armed combat, El-Kassem said. "What is so holy about war that causes bloodshed?" he asked. "It's an oxymoron: like saying 'holy Satan,' you can't say 'holy war.'"
El-Kassem explained the Koran says jihad means to "exert a major effort to get [non-believers] to understand the Koran." However, he noted, the effort does not necessarily mean war.
The most important aspect of jihad is the development of the "inner-self," referring to a means of self improvement by understanding the teachings of the Koran, El-Kassem said.
"Jihad does not mean to force people or subdue them to abide by Islam," he said.
MSA president Khurram Khan said he found El-Kassem's words "invigorating."
"I wanted to have this very special event as part of this week," he said. "This is an opportunity for students to find out about Islam."
Adham Benni, Arab Students' Association president, said the talk was an important source of information for students, which he said the media cannot provide.
"The media has distorted the image of Islam as a bloodthirsty people," he said. "The real meaning of Islam is peace."
Benni said the concept of jihad is more applicable to the inner-struggle going on within ourselves. "It is a struggle to eliminate the evil from our souls," he said.
Faridah Saadat, a first-year science student, said the lecture clarified aspects of the Islamic faith.
"I liked [El-Kassem's] speech because he defended the truth and looked at it objectively," she said.
Copyright © The Gazette 2001