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Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Speaker overturns misconceptions of Islamic jihad


By Caitlin Roberson

The Muslim Student Association hosted an informational forum – "Operation Jihad: Misconceptions of a Peaceful Intention" – in honor of Islamic Awareness Week on Wednesday night.

The forum, held in the Computer Science building, was the third forum hosted by MSA this week.

Speaker Husam Ayloush – a member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations – discussed the meaning of Islamic Jihad and addressed common misconceptions of the term.

"The word 'jihad' makes most people think of Islamic extremists and events like Sept. 11," Ayloush said.

"But they do not remember that the image of long-bearded men carrying machine guns is media-produced," he added.

In Arabic, "jihad" means the exertion of effort for the sake of God, and has no implications of war or violence, Ayloush said.

The forum began with an Arabic hymn and a scripture reading from the Koran. Many individuals in the predominantly Muslim audience bowed their heads.

Ayloush mentioned that many individuals incorrectly associate jihad with the idea of a holy war.

This term "holy war" does not exist in Islamic terminology and was only written to describe the Crusades in the 1400s, he said.

Jihad ultimately promotes peace and justice in everyday activities, such as loving Allah above everything else and resisting worldly temptations, he added.

Ayloush mentioned that some people forget jihad is not always just an international affair but a local one as well.

He referred to the United Food and Commercial Workers strike against three major supermarket chains in Southern California as a local example of jihad.

"At a time when CEOs are making millions of dollars through supermarkets, store employees receive poor benefits and are paid little," he said.

"These strikers practice jihad by protesting in defense of the security of their families," he added.

Jihad can also implicate defending one's community from oppression, but it does not automatically call for war, Ayloush said.

"Islam is not about fighting until you teach someone a lesson. It is about fighting until persecution is no more," he said.

One student protester showed his disagreement with Ayloush; it was first-year biology student David Lazar, who stood outside the forum to protest. Ayloush responded by encouraging his audience to remember no religion is immune to extremist sects.

"No one judges Christianity by the acts of Hitler; no one judges Judaism by the acts of Sharon; So if you want to judge Islam, do not judge it by the acts of Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein," he said.

"Remember that the mainstream believers, not the extreme few, represent Islam," he added.

At the forum's end, Ayloush answered questions from the 50 students and Westwood residents in attendance.

Several audience members asked questions prompting heated discussions. These individuals were encouraged to stay after the forum to converse with Ayloush in private.

MSA plans to man a booth on Bruin Walk for the remainder of the week. Events and additional forums will be held as well.

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