Examining the relationship between Islamic culture and current events, including concerns about the use of violence, was the focus of a lecture yesterday given as part of Islamic Awareness Week.

Islamic Studies Prof. Timothy Gianotti noted in the lecture, which was sponsored by the Muslim Student Association, the difference between the use of the term jihad in Islamic tradition versus its use in popular culture.

“The word jihad in Arabic didn’t begin as a term that made people cringe,” he said.

According to Gianotti, the word literally refers to a struggle.

“Feeding the poor is jihad,” he said. “Writing your Congressperson is jihad.”

Prior to the lecture, Arabic Prof. Mohammed Sawaie said there is “the bigger jihad and the smaller jihad.” The bigger sense of the word, he said, refers to a struggle for self-improvement while the smaller sense is a struggle to show support for Islam.

The use of the term to describe wars waged in support of Islam “is incorrect in the sense that it is not the primary meaning of jihad,” he said. “It is a slogan to create a gap between East and West.”

Gianotti said his goal is not to convert others to Islam, but to start a conversation about the history of the religion and its prevalence in discussion of contemporary global issues.


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