‘A Word of Truth’ About Linda Sarsour’s ‘Jihad’

Linda Sarsour bores me. She is the radical flavor-of-the-month. But she is a numbingly familiar type to longtime observers of sharia supremacists in the West: the forked tongue, the flag-draped anti-Americanism, the close partnership with the hard left, and so on. Eight years ago, I wrote a book called The Grand Jihad about this breed of Muslim Brotherhood-mold operative. Sarsour fits the pathology to a tee … but once you’re on to them, these people are a dime a dozen. Yawn.

She got my attention, though, with her call for “jihad” in executing the Islamist-Leftist “resistance” to Donald Trump. Naturally, this has led to a brouhaha about whether she was really calling for violence or using “jihad” in the revisionist non-violent sense of “an internal struggle for personal betterment.”

I have no doubt that Lee Smith (in Tablet) is correct: Sarsour is a provocateur who was trying to call attention to herself while laying the groundwork to play the victim when she was inevitably criticized. What I have found amusing, however, are the two premises urged by her apologists: (a) we should take the jihad revisionism seriously; and (b) she must have meant “non-violent” jihad because she introduced the term by referring to a hadith in which Mohammed, Islam’s prophet, explains that, rather than violence, “the best form of jihad” is to speak “a word of truth” before a tyrant.

On the first point, jihad is essentially a forcible struggle. As Lee Smith points out, the evidence of sense should tell us all we need to know about it: just look at what is happening “on the killing fields of the Middle East.” Still, we do not need to make a deduction because the meaning of the word is clear, and because non-violent connotations of jihad are understood to be in support of the same mission as forcible jihad: the implementation of sharia, Islam’s societal framework and legal code.

Derivatives of “jihad” are used numerous times in the Koran in the militaristic sense. As I explained in Willful Blindness, my memoir about prosecuting jihadist terrorists in the mid-nineties, Bernard Lewis, the West’s pre-eminent historian of Islam, observes that “some modern Muslim theologians” have attempted to interpret the term as “striving … in a spiritual and moral sense.” Yet, he counters, “The overwhelming majority of early authorities,… citing relevant passages in the Qur’an and in the tradition, discuss jihad in military terms."

Furthermore, Thomas Patrick Hughes’s renowned A Dictionary of Islam (1895) defines jihad as follows:

A religious war with those who are unbelievers in the mission of Muhammad. It is an incumbent religious duty, established in the Qur’an and in the Traditions as a divine institution, and enjoined specially for the purpose of advancing Islam and of repelling evil from Muslims.