CHICAGO: US Muslims launched an advertising and social media campaign Friday in the hopes of reclaiming the word jihad from extremists who insist on equating the spiritual quest with terrorism.
The campaign features Muslims describing their personal struggles – the meaning of jihad – on bus ads, Twitter, Facebook and a dedicated website: myjihad.org.
“#MyJihad is to build friendships across the aisle,” says one ad showing an African American man leaning on the shoulder of a Jewish friend.
“#MyJihad is to march on despite losing my son,” says another ad, featuring a portrait of a mother with her three remaining children.
“#MyJihad is to not judge people by their cover,” says a third, framed by two women in headscarves.
It was sparked by a series of hateful ads calling Muslims “savages” and urging people to “defeat jihad” that were plastered on buses and trains in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.
But it also speaks to a larger frustration among “mainstream” Muslims with how a basic tenant of their faith has been distorted and demonised, said Ahmed Rehab who helped launch the campaign.
“Jihad is a term that has unfortunately been widely misrepresented by the actions of Muslim extremists first and foremost, and by attempts at public indoctrination coming from Islamophobes who claim that the minority extremists are right and the majority of Muslims are wrong,” said Rehab, who is the executive director of the Chicago branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“The MyJihad campaign is about reclaiming Jihad from the Muslim and anti-Muslim extremists who ironically, but not surprisingly, see eye to eye on Jihad.”
The ads have been placed on buses in Chicago and Rehab hopes to raise funds to expand the campaign to buses and trains in New York, Washington, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, Dallas, Cleveland and Oklahoma City.
Organisers are also working to get the ads on buses in Toronto, London, Manchester, Sydney and Melbourne.