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scary word means things

scary word means things

Here is what Linda Sarsour had to say at ISNA about Jihad:

In these United States of America, if you sit back idly in the face of injustice, if you maintain the current status quo that not only oppresses Muslims, but oppresses black people inside our community and outside our community, undocumented people, other minority groups and oppressed groups, you, my dear sisters and brothers, are then aligned with the oppressor.

If you, as a Muslim, are standing on the sidelines, if you are neutral in the face of oppression in this country, you are not a patriot. You are aiding and abetting the oppressors in these United States of America.

I will not be an aide or help any oppressor in this nation oppress any community by my silence.

You can count on me every single day to use my voice to stand up, not only to people outside our community who are oppressing our communities, but those inside our community who aid and abet the oppressors outside of our community.

There is a man who once asked our beloved prophet Mohammed SAW he said to him, “What is the best form of jihad or struggle?”

And our beloved prophet Mohammed SAW said to him, “A word of truth in front of a tyrant or leader, that is the best form of jihad.” and I hope, that when we stand up to theose who oppress our communities, that Allah accepts from us that as a form of jihad, that we are struggling against tyrants and rulers not only abroad in the Middle East or the other side of the world, but here in these United States of America, where you have fascists and white supremacists and Islamophobia reigning in the White House.

I do not know Linda personally, but I suspect she is a student of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. Here is what Obama had to say when asked by David Brooks what he took away from Niebuhr’s philosophy:

“I take away,” Obama answered in a rush of words, “the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away … the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naïve idealism to bitter realism.”

Recognizing that there is evil and injustice in the world, and standing up to it in word and deed – that is the true essence of Jihad. All too often, we simply sit back in cynicism – but that inaction is, as Linda said, aiding and abetting. Her call for Jihad is in harmony with the noblest Christian and Jewish traditions of standing up in the face of Injustice.

Jihad is our word, not their word. Just because Al Qaeda and ISIS have decided to relabel hirabah as jihad, doesn’t make their political agenda normative for our religious practice. The hadith of the Prophet that Linda cited is:

عَنْ أَبِى سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِىِّ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم : أَفْضَلُ الْجِهَادِ كَلِمَةُ عَدْلٍ عِنْدَ سُلْطَانٍ جَائِرٍ

and in the Qur’an, the same root word is used to denote “struggle” or “great effort” – for example:

فَلَا تُطِعِ الْكَافِرِينَ وَجَاهِدْهُم بِهِ جِهَادًا كَبِيرًا – 25:52

“Do not obey the concealers, but strive against them with it (Quran), a mighty struggle.”

This word is part of our religion, this concept is part of who we are, and we must speak out in defense of our religion. Saying nothing is, as Linda said, aiding and abetting those who would oppress us and our faith. Especially now.

But even more importantly, we must speak out to defend the oppressed, to literally speak truth to power, when that power is used unjustly. There is nothing in what Linda Sarsour said with which any Christian or Jew of conscience should disagree.

As for those who willfully misrepresent the above as “Linda Sarsour calls for Jihad against Trump”, they reveal themselves to be either a garbage human or simply a puerile troll. The attendant Islamophobia and misogynism are just symptoms of that barbaric state of mind. Fake news, indeed.

Related – great articles at Time and at Washington Post about the fake news regarding Linda’s comments.

UPDATE: In the New York Times, Bari Weiss labels Linda Sarsour an anti-Semite who “embraces hate”. Here is a counterpoint from Mondoweiss about Weiss, who they characterize as a “smear artist”.

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