In his 2002 Commentary article, "Jihad and the Professors," Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes makes a compelling case for "the nearly universal falsification of jihad on the part of American academic scholars." Rather than acknowledging the aggressively military nature of jihad (otherwise known as "holy war"), such academics would have us believe that it consists either of defensive warfare, a struggle for spiritual and personal improvement, or the promotion of social justice. Here are a few of the quotes he cites in the article:
Jihad as "usually understood" means "a struggle to be true to the will of God and not holy war."
Dell DeChant, professor of world religions, University of South Florida
"…in the struggle to be a good Muslim, there may be times where one will be called upon to defend one's faith and community. Then [jihad] can take on the meaning of armed struggle."
John Esposito, founding director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University
Jihad is "resisting apartheid or working for women's rights."
Farid Eseck, professor of Islamic studies, Auburn Seminary
Six years later, it would be nice to conclude that the situation has changed. But the academic apologists inhabiting the field of Middle East studies continue the obfuscation. The following is just a sampling of the sort of misleading and, in some cases, deceptive definitions of jihad these professors have been peddling:
"It is clear that military warfare is the lesser jihad, and the greater jihad is against the forces that prevent human beings from being human, as it were."
Mary Richardson, professor of history, Tufts University (source: Tufts Journal)
There is "the bigger jihad and the smaller jihad." The bigger sense of the word, he said, refers to a struggle for self-improvement while the smaller sense is a struggle to show support for Islam…The use of the term to describe wars waged in support of Islam "is incorrect in the sense that it is not the primary meaning of jihad. It is a slogan to create a gap between East and West."
"Feeding the poor is jihad…writing your Congressperson is jihad."
"The September 11 terrorism attacks and Osama bin Laden's calls for a 'holy war' are irrelevant to the concept of jihad. What is more relevant is the political conditions that are creating an environment of militancy throughout the Muslim and Arab world."
As'ad AbuKhalil, associate professor of political science, California State University-Stanislaus (source: CNN)
"Jihad has become a global fad, rather like gangsta rap."
Jessica Stern, lecturer on terrorism, Harvard University (source: The Boston Globe)
In the following case, the real meaning of jihad is acknowledged, if somewhat reluctantly:
Al-Qazzaz says there are two levels of jihad. The greater jihad is every Muslim's quest to live out their faith in their daily lives, to improve themselves and to become a better Muslim. The lesser jihad means to protect one's people and fight against enemies, he says. So the greater jihad prompts devout Muslims to remember their religious guidelines while fighting, which would cause them to treat war prisoners well.
In direct contrast to the dissimulation demonstrated above, Islam scholar Robert Spencer pulled no punches in an April 8 speech at Stanford University accompanied by Daniel Pipes and titled, "Jihad: What does it really mean and why do so many people lie about it?" (The Stanford Review covers the speech in its latest issue and the video is available online). Spencer read numerous passages from the Koran to demonstrate that in its original incarnation, jihad involved "the relation of believer to unbeliever." And more often than not this relationship has been one of violence towards non-Muslims.
The fact that Spencer was accompanied by all of four security guards throughout the evening would seem to back up his conclusions. Peaceful jihad, indeed.