Jihad, Holy War, and Terrorism The Politics of Conflation and Denial

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Asma Barlas



In the wake of 9/11, the Islamic concept of jihad has been described as both “holy war” and “terrorism.” In this paper, I unpack this twofold conflation within the context of a broader discussion of the problem of some Muslims’ interpretive extremism and the West’s long-standing and willful politics of misrecognition of Islam.2 This politics confuses Islam with Muslims; disregards the role of political, economic, cultural, and historical factors in shaping Muslims’ attitudes, actions, and readings of Islam; and denies western complicity in creating conducive conditions for extremism. In critiquing both Muslims and non-Muslims, the idea is to alert them to what may equally be at stake for them in the egalitarian readings of Islam.

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