Salon Wonders If "Jihad" Can Survive Pamela Geller

Alex Seitz-Wald embraces the role of CAIR's useful idiot with pride and gusto.

Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon is a bit of a dim bulb; on Tuesday he tweeted this:

He was referring, however, to my piece at Atlas Shrugs (which, incidentally, was about him and his ilk: "The Monstrous Moral Inversion of the 'Islamophobia' Industry"), which was not an interview at all, but a column. When someone on his side gently pointed this out, the intrepid journalist Seitz-Wald responded: "I'll admit I didn't even bother reading enough to determine if it was an interview or a column."

In light of his confessed carelessness and obvious dim-bulb status, it is no surprise that he would fall for a war-is-deceit sharpie like Hamas-linked CAIR's Ahmed Rehab, even if Rehab's deception skills are decidedly second-tier. Salon is an indefatigable exponent of the Leftist/Islamic supremacist alliance, and so even if they had sent a more intelligent writer than Alex Seitz-Wald to do this story, Rehab wouldn't have had to work very hard.

And ask Pamela Geller for comment in a story about ads she originated? Or me, who was involved in the process? Of course not! Salon has all the politically correct opinions; it doesn't have to be fair and balanced!

"Can 'jihad' survive Pam Geller?," by Alex Seitz-Wald in Salon, January 9:

So you want to rebrand a word. It’s hard to think of a more difficult rebranding project than “jihad.”Since Sept. 11, the term has become synonymous with terrorism and villainy — but now a group of Muslims is trying to reclaim the word from the extremists, and redefine “jihad” to mean something normal and peaceful and good. They realize this won’t be easy.

Which group of Muslims? Alex Seitz-Wald doesn't tell you until much later in the article that it's the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which the Justice Department named an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case. Nor does he mention, and may not know, that CAIR operatives have repeatedly refused to denounce Hamas and Hizballah as terrorist groups. He says nothing about, and may not know, the fact that several former CAIR officials have been convicted of various crimes related to jihad terror. Nor does he mention, and may not know, that CAIR’s cofounder and longtime Board chairman (Omar Ahmad), as well as its chief spokesman (Ibrahim Hooper), have made Islamic supremacist statements, or that its California chapter distributed posters telling Muslims not to talk to the FBI.

Would such a group have an interest in obfuscating the meaning of jihad so as to foster the complacency of Americans? Alex Seitz-Wald doesn't investigate this question.

The campaign hinges on the idea that “jihad” has two commonly accepted usages. One is the violent, physical struggle most of us are familiar with. The other, which many Muslims and Islamic scholars consider the more correct definition, refers to the inner struggle to do good and follow God’s teaching; Muslims strive to attain this every day. This is the “proper meaning” being promoted by My Jihad, a public education campaign recently launched on billboards and on buses in Chicago.

"More correct" is a marvelously weaselly phrase. Is the idea that jihad is violent struggle correct or not? Apparently even the war-is-deceit propagandists who saw in Seitz-Wald the easy mark that he is couldn't bring themselves to tell him that violent jihad wasn't correct in Islam; they could only go so far as to tell him that the interior spiritual struggle was "more correct." Seitz-Wald doesn't notice the incoherence: to say that 2 + 2 = 4 is not "more correct" than to say that 2 + 2 = 5; it is correct and the latter is incorrect.

But in Islamic law, jihad as spiritual struggle is not the correct or "proper meaning," while violent jihad is incorrect; both are accepted understandings of the concept. A manual of Islamic law certified by the highest authority in Sunni Islam, Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, as conforming “to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni community” explained: “Jihad means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word mujahada signifying warfare to establish the religion. And it is the lesser jihad. As for the greater jihad, it is spiritual warfare against the lower self (nafs).” After thus acknowledging the spiritual, “greater jihad,” the manual never mentions it again, but goes on for many paragraphs about the “lesser jihad,” that “war against non-Muslims,” giving rules for the taking of prisoners, the legal status of captive women, the subjugation of the infidels, and more.

This legal manual stipulates that Muslims must make war “upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians…until they become Muslim or pay the non-Muslim poll tax.” It specifies that the warfare against non-Muslims must continue until “the final descent of Jesus.” After that, “nothing but Islam will be accepted from them.”

“The campaign is about reclaiming Islam, and not just ‘jihad,’ from both Muslim and non-Muslim extremists,” said Ahmed Rehab, the leader of the effort, in an interview. “Whether it’s the bin Ladens and the al-Qaidas of the Muslim world, or the Pam Gellers and Frank Gaffneys of the non-Muslim world, ironically — even though they come from the two opposite ends of the spectrum — they agree exactly on the same definition of ‘jihad’ and on the same worldview of Islam versus the rest of the world.”

Note that Rehab follows common and tired Islamic supremacist talking points in tarring as "extremists" both Islamic jihadis and those who resist them. He is trying to imply, with Alex Seitz-Wald's willing help, that those who resist jihad are just as lethal, just as dangerous, as those who commit it. The goal, of course, is to intimidate people into thinking there's something wrong with resisting jihad. To equate Pamela Geller, a political activist working to defend free speech, the freedom of conscience, and equality of rights for all, with Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the murders of 3,000 people, is a monstrous smear. It sails right by dim Alex, who probably thought it was incisive if he thought about it at all.

Rehab is also trying to hoodwink non-Muslims into thinking that the view of jihad espoused by bin Laden and al-Qaeda is "extremist," as if the mainstream understanding of jihad is the bicycling-through-the-meadows type he is pushing. And we, of course, are greasy Islamophobes who are, in our hate, endorsing the view of the "extremists." He doesn't tell the ever-credulous and starry-eyed Seitz-Wald, although he surely knows, that warfare against and subjugation of unbelievers is the mainstream Muslim understanding of jihad, as I detailed here.

In fact, the ads were directly inspired by Geller, the anti-Muslim blogger and activist, who has plastered her own billboards on subways and buses in New York. They label Muslims as “savages” and incite viewers to “defeat Jihad.”

"Anti-Muslim" equals in favor of legal equality, the freedom to change one's religion or have none at all, and the freedom of speech as our fundamental bulwark against tyranny. The appellation says more about Alex Seitz-Wald than it does about Pamela Geller, and is designed to imply that she is motivated simply by race hate, even though Islam is not a race, and not by any legitimate concern for the principles that are threatened by Sharia.

The quoted ad only suggests that "all Muslims are savages" if all Muslims support the bloody jihad against Israeli civilians like the Fogel family, murdered in their beds by Islamic jihadists whose deed was then celebrated in Gaza. I expect that Ahmed Rehab does support that jihad, but for him and other Islamic supremacist writers in the U.S. to suggest that all Muslims do is more than a little..."Islamophobic." Doesn't the Vast Majority of Peaceful Muslims reject jihad violence, as we are constantly told?

“Everybody was talking about the ‘savage’ part, but to me, that’s just sort of an insult — she thinks I’m a savage,

If the shoe fits, Ahmed.

I think she’s an idiot, we’re even,” he said. “But the problem for me was the use of the word ‘jihad.’ When no one seemed to care about that, I realized that we have a problem.”

Indeed. One that cosmetics won't conceal.

In billboards on buses and subways, smiling Muslims and non-Muslims share universal human aspirations, personalized by the individual “jihads” of the non-actor volunteers who share their struggles. In this context, a jihad is no more threatening than a New Year’s resolution. “My jihad is to stay fit despite my busy schedule,” one woman with a headscarf and a barbell says. Others deal with raising children, doing well at work, and making friendships with different kinds of people. To Rehab, jihad means that when you are “confronted with two choices, you make the right choice and not the easy one.”Ads have already gone up on buses in Chicago and San Francisco, and will soon go up in 10 other major American cities and a handful of international ones, including London, Sydney and Melbourne. There’s a website, Facebook page and Twitter hashtag where people can share their own personal jihads.

On Monday, Egyptian activists working with the group even unfurled a giant banner in front of the main church in Cairo wishing a Merry Christmas (Coptic Christians celebrate the holiday on Jan. 7) in contravention of hard-line Islamic proclamations that Christmas should not be recognized.

That may not sound so scary, but the opposition has been predictably vitriolic. The group’s Twitter and Facebook pages have received hateful messages from hard-line Islamists. Geller, predictably, is exercised.

She has written at least a dozen posts using the campaign’s #myjihad hashtag, which currently represent about two out of every three posts on the front page of her influential anti-Muslim blog. Geller also seems determined to play a game of bait and switch to sabatoge [sic] the rival campaign. She registered the domain name (the real URL ends in .org) and is even trying to run copycat ads that are clearly designed to be confused with Rehab’s.

In her ads, the peaceful Muslim is replaced with pictures of Osama bin Laden and the burning twin towers. She trying to get approval from the Chicago Transit Authority for the ads to appear on city buses, but they may be rejected for infringing on My Jihad’s copyright to the template.

Funny how Seitz-Wald never raised that possibility, and neither did anyone else, when MPAC parodied one of our earlier pro-freedom ads. In any case, parody is not forbidden by copyright, and Seitz-Wald doesn't tell you, and probably doesn't know, that the only thing that is parody about our ads is the design; the quotes featured in our ads are all real usages of the term jihad by Muslims, or related to such usages. Rehab's ads, by contrast, feature people using the term "jihad" in ways that have nothing to do with how the term has been traditionally understood in Islamic theology and law.

One would think that My Jihad is exactly the kind of moderate Muslim voice that Geller — who claims to be so threatened by Muslim “extremists” — would want to promote. But in reality, “the extremists on both sides need each other for validation. And we’re a threat to both,” Rehab said.

"Moderates" who support Hamas and dissemble about jihad's meaning as enunciated by mainstream Muslim authorities throughout history. I myself am skeptical as to whether Seitz-Wald is really dealing with a "moderate Muslim voice" here, but no skeptical thought ever crosses the smooth contours of his brain.

Rehab is the executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR),

Now he tells us. But with no mention of the group's links to Hamas or jihad terror, of course.

but he’s doing this on his own time and with separate funds to keep it a grass-roots effort.

Probably because the national office of Hamas-linked CAIR found his campaign too risible to support.

What started as a Facebook group less than a month ago has grown into a sophisticated public relations campaign that has already raised $20,000 and recruited dozens of volunteers, most of whom are “soccer moms” who don’t want their kids to feel intimidated at school because of their religion, Rehab said. “These are the army of My Jihad,” he quipped. But can the popular conception of “jihad” really be changed with some ads and a hashtag?

“I would look at this conflict as I would any other product: We have an image problem,” said Arash Afshar, an Iranian-American marketing consultant who is not involved with the campaign. “This is exactly what Muslims should be doing … The way to combat an image problem is not to simply sit back and hope it goes away. You develop a branding strategy and motivate your already existing fan-base.”

If Afshar and Rehab really want to change the image of "jihad," they don't need to attack Pamela Geller; they need to convince the Muslims who believe it has to do with violence to change their views. That they're not making any effort to do that is telling.

Seitz-Wald concludes his article with a long and incoherent disquisition on how hard it will be for Rehab to change the meaning of "jihad." It is incoherent because Seitz-Wald repeatedly asserts that the idea that jihad involves violence is wrong, improper, a "hijacking" of the term, but it never occurs to him to wonder why, if this understanding is indeed so illegitimate, it is so entrenched. Or if it did occur to him, he banished the thought quickly, before the thought police could possibly get wind of his ideological deviation. He's a proper company man, and in this ridiculous hit piece he did a proper company job -- no real depth of thought or genuine analysis is needed for Salon. As long as the article portrays Pamela Geller and the counter-jihad effort as evil, evil, evil, that's good enough for the enlightened Leftist hatemongers and enemies of freedom that make up Salon's core audience.

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.