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A Different Kind of Jihad

We we Americans hear the word “Jihad”, most of us instantly think “holy war” and some of us think about either al-Qaeda or perhaps Iran. Maybe even Syria even though they are ruled by a secular government.

I’ve heard Jihad translated as struggled and Mohammed himself distinguished between the lesser jihad of external battle and the greater jihad of internal submission to God. According to what appears to be a well documented article in Wikipedia, it has several other meanings. Since the article seems to jibe with my Middle East history course in college, I feel comfortable in citing it. At least as it appears on 11/23/2008.

Today I’d like to cite one example of a different kind of Jihad. While reading the book:

Curtis, G. E., & Hooglund, E. J. (2008). Iran: A country study. Area handbook series. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, Federal Research Division.

I ran across a description of “Jihad-e Sazandegi” or “Crusade for Reconstruction”, founded in 1979 on page 110:

At first it consisted of high-school-educated youth, largely from villages, who initiated such village improvement projects as providing electricification and piped water, building feeder roads, constructing mosques and bathhouses, and repairing irrigation networks. The operational approach was to involve the villagers in the projects, including their planning, construction and even partial financing, although overall direction was from Tehran via the provinical Jihad offices. As a result of these activities, more than 90 percent of villages had electricity and piped water by 2000, as well as access to rural schools, health clinics, and improved secondary roads that connected to highways.

I don’t write this to say that Iran is a utopia. It certainly is not. But I think it’s very important for us to realize that certain charged words can have multiple meanings. When confronted with such words we must make a special effort to identify and understand the context.

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