— The Erimtan Angle —

The pro-government daily Today’s Zaman reports that a ‘pro-Israeli, anti-Islamic extremist group, known for running anti-Muslim ads in the New York subway, has depicted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a terrorist in ads targeting the concept of jihad in Islam. The anti-jihad ads were designed by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) as a response to “MyJihad,” a public education campaign that seeks to share the proper meaning of jihad as believed and practiced by the majority of Muslims. MyJihad has been running various ads on buses and trains in cities across the US, in which it has tried to show the global values of Islam with such slogans as “My Jihad is not to judge people by their cover. What’s yours?” and “My Jihad is to build friendships across the aisle. What’s yours?” The AFDI, widely known for its controversial attacks on Islam, apparently designed its ads in the same way but with the opposite aim. One of the ads shows the angry face of Erdoğan next to a passage from a poem by Ziya Gökalp, a Turkish sociologist and writer, that Erdoğan famously recited in 1998. The poem reads, “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers,” and next to this, the AFDI had added the sentence “That’s My Jihad. What’s yours?”’. [1]

As long ago as 2010, I wrote in the same newspaper that “[n]owadays the term jihad is much bandied about and used and/or abused at will by Muslims as well as non-Muslims the world over. The historian and Islam specialist Mark Sedgwick maintains that the concept of jihad was developed in the eighth century, when it basically functioned as a “mixture of the Army Regulations and the Geneva Conventions, appropriate for the circumstances of the time.” At the time of the Islamic conquests (seventh-eighth centuries), the world was divided between the House of Islam (Dar al-Islam) and the House of War (Dar al-Harb) and international relations between both spheres were primarily military in nature. But as the centuries progressed and relations between Muslims and the outside world achieved a quasi-peaceful status quo, punctuated by commercial exchanges and trade links, the idea of jihad changed as well. There is the well-known distinction between the greater jihad (al-jihad al-akbar) and the lesser jihad (al-jihad al-asghar), between a personal struggle in the way of Allah (crf. Surah 29:69) and an armed struggle to protect believers against oppression and violence perpetrated by unbelievers. In other words, jihad evolved from a code of war into a defensive mechanism, tantamount to a religious duty leading to religious rewards”.[ii]  So much for the meaning of Jihad, either greater or lesser. Returning to Tayyip Erdoğan’s countanace in ads in the New York subway: in ‘1999, Erdoğan served four months in jail after being convicted of “Islamist sedition” for reading Gökalp’s poem at a political rally in Siirt when he was the mayor of İstanbul for the now-defunct Welfare Party (RP). His conviction came two years after an unarmed military intervention on Feb. 28, 1997, often dubbed a postmodern coup, which resulted in the fall of a coalition government led by RP leader Necmettin Erbakan . . . Apart from the attack on Erdoğan, the AFDI created similar ads, with the alleged words of Osama Bin Laden and Times Square bomber Faisal Shazad, and an alleged anti-Semitic sentence from a Hamas-owned TV channel. A lawyer from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) recently sent a letter to the AFDI claiming ownership of the MyJihad ads and stating that the AFDI is violating MyJihad.org’s common law trademark and trade dress, or design, rights’.[3]

[1] “Anti-Islam extremist group depicts Erdoğan as terrorist in public ads” Today’s Zaman (05 March 2013). http://www.todayszaman.com/news-308855-anti-islam-extremist-group-depicts-erdogan-as-terrorist-in-public-ads.html.

[2] C. Erimtan, “The war in Afghanistan: jihad, foreign fighters and al-Qaeda” Today’s Zaman (29 September 2010). http://www.todayszaman.com/newsDetail_getNewsById.action?load=detay&link=222918.

[3] “Anti-Islam extremist group depicts Erdoğan as terrorist in public ads”.


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