World

Jihad is ‘getting to a better place,’ says CAIR campaign

Neil Munro White House Correspondent

An Islamic-advocacy group linked to terrorism is launching a public-relations campaign to argue that jihad doesn’t mean Islamic holy war, but instead a “concerted effort … with the purpose of getting to a better place.”

However, the campaign, which is being launched Dec. 14 by an affiliate of the Council on American Islamic Relations, isn’t a formal religious declaration by United States or Arab Islamic authorities, and it does clash with orthodox judgments dating back 1,400 years to the beginning of Islam.

“It is [public] education about what we believe,” said Ahmed Rehab, who serves as the founder of the project, head of CAIR’s Chicago affiliate and CAIR’s strategic communications chief.

The views of jihad groups, Salafi activists in Egypt and of the Arab world’s leading preacher, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “are not the entirety of the story,” Rehab told The Daily Caller on Thursday.

Those orthodox views of jihad as warfare to spread Islam are being championed by a new wave of Islamic revivalists — including numerous jihadi groups, such as the “Jamaat al-Tawhid wa’l-Jihad” terror group in the Gaza strip.

They also are being pushed by Qaradawi, whose weekly radio show has a claimed audience of 60 million. In 2011, he was invited by the dominant Islamic group in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, to give a speech to thousands of Islamist supporters in downtown Cairo.

“I have hope that Almighty Allah … will also please me with the conquest of the al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem, Israel]. … May Allah prepare the way for us to preach in the al-Aqsa Mosque in safety!” he declared.

In contrast, Rehab’s “MyJihad” public-relations campaign portrays jihad as “a concerted and noble effort against injustice, hate, misunderstanding, war, violence, poverty, hunger, abuse or whatever challenge big or small we face in daily life, with the purpose of getting to a better place,” according to the campaign’s website, MyJihad.org.

The campaign will include testimonials, op-eds, bus advertising and visits to mosques, Rehab said.

“This is a whitewash,” charged Robert Spencer, the author of several books about orthodox Islam.

Jihad, Spencer said, in Islamic texts “as well as in Islamic law, has always borne the primary meaning of warfare against unbelievers in order to affect their subjugation under Sharia.”

Sharia is the far-reaching legal system established by Muslim religious authorities. It governs most aspects of private and public life, and excludes Christianity and its offshoots: law, ethics, democracy and philosophy.

The prevalence of fighting in jihad is found in Qur’an translations provided by the University of Southern California.

Verse 74 of the Qur’an’s fourth book, for example, declares, “Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.”

That passage establishes the widespread Muslim view that dying in a war for Islam is “martyrdom” that will be rewarded by entrance to Islam’s heaven, or “jannah.”

Rehab’s campaign “is an attempt to … lull Americans into even greater complacency about the Islamic supremacist program,” Spencer said.

It “reminiscent of the ad campaigns of old that suggested that smoking was good for you: ‘More Doctors Smoke Camels than any other Cigarette,’” he added.

Rehab dismissed Spencer’s criticism, saying that Spencer cherry-picks alarming quotes from Islamic texts and advocates. “Most Muslims believe what I’m saying,” he insisted.

“My view of jihad comes entirely from what orthodox, mainstream Islamic authorities say ‘jihad’ means,” Spencer said.

Rehab acknowledged the widespread view of jihad as war in the Arab world.

“Qaradawi has things I disagree with, but he’s not considered an extremist,” Rehab said. “Talk to him about his views, and talk to me about my views.”

But Egypt’s new Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, has also participated in a “reprehensible” prayer to attack Israel, Rehab said.

During the October prayer, Morsi seemed to say the Islamic equivalent of “amen” as the preacher urged Allah to “grant victory over the infidels. … Oh Allah, deal with the Jews and their supporters. Oh Allah, disperse them, rend them asunder.”

“I proactively called it out, not just because it is an affront to Jews … but it is an affront to my beliefs, my religion,” Rehab said.

Rehab’s parent group, CAIR, also has problems. Several of its employees have been jailed or deported for terror offenses, and FBI officials refuse to meet with CAIR’s founders because of their entanglement in a Texas scheme to raise money for the Iranian-backed Hamas terror group based in the Gaza enclave near Israel.

“There are definitely problematic individuals and groups in the Muslim world that make me shiver,” said Rehab. “They’re going to be a threat to their home countries, to my home country of Egypt.”

“But guess what? They’re being confronted, they’re being pushed back,” he claimed.

On Dec. 15, Egypt’s population will have the opportunity to push back the Islamists. That’s when Egypt’s voters will decided to establish or reject an draft constitution written by Islamists that would establish an Islamic theocracy that would subordinate women and non-Muslims to Muslim men.

But those views are popular in the Arab world.

“At least three-quarters of Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan say they would favor making each of the following the law in their countries: stoning people who commit adultery, whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion,” according to a 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center

Many Arab Muslims support the Hamas terror group, which routinely launches rockets at Israeli towns. “49% of Muslims in Egypt and Lebanon have a favorable opinion and 48% in each country have an unfavorable view of the group,” said the 2010 survey.

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