Students embrace #MyJihad campaign
New York City subway-riders were shocked to read blogger Pamela Geller’s advertisement as they made their daily commutes.
The ad read, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.”
In response to what it perceives as an unfair attack on Islamic ideas, Washington University’s Muslim Students Association (MSA) has joined a national outcry prompted by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center to call out the ad’s creator, conservative blogger Geller, for hateful speech against Muslims.
“[Jihad] comes from the Arabic word which means to struggle or to strive,” junior and event organizer Ayah Abo-basha said. “It’s something that’s very personal and it’s different from one person to the next.”
The MSA has planned a number of events to address the widespread conflation of jihad and terrorism. Joining the social media movement #MyJihad, the group has been holding photo shoots where students express what “jihad” means to them.
Abo-basha and junior Ishaq Winters organized the event to capitalize on the publicity of the advertisement campaign to promote awareness of the true meaning of jihad.
“Overall, we just wanted this event to promote more dialogue and tolerance on campus. It was really well-received by students,” Abo-basha said.
Abo-basha said that after its event Wednesday, the group has had about 45 students pose next to chalkboard statements of their personal goals.
Personal statements included senior Taka Yamaguchi’s “#MyJihad is challenging people to question their assumptions” and sophomore Madhana Pandian’s “#MyJihad is to find my place in the world and make a difference.”
Abo-basha said about 30 of the participating students were not Muslim.
“That was really exciting to see,” Abo-basha said. “We’re hoping that we get similarly diverse representation at the follow-up discussion.”
All of the photo shoots, publicized via Facebook, lead up to a discussion on Nov. 2 where the MSA hopes to bring students together to talk about jihad and its portrayal in the media and popular culture.
“I think this method of educating people about jihad is a great idea,” sophomore Max Fleisher said. “I think it should help contribute to our student population’s image as a group that is cognizant of a greater diversity of cultures.”
“I think it’s interesting that they’re working to turn over stereotypes by reaching out to the student body,” sophomore Sophia Brown said. “They’re shedding some light onto a topic that you rarely hear about in the media from a positive perspective, which I think is really important.”
The discussion on Nov. 2 will be held at 4 p.m. in the Mallinckrodt Multipurpose Room.