“Jihad” is often mistranslated as “holy war”, a word that does not exist in Arabic. “Jihad” literally means “striving”. The greater jihad is described as the internal struggle to avoid negative actions and cultivate good character. The lesser jihad is described as the external striving for justice, in self defense or against oppression, which is a basic human right shared by all people. One can do this in one’s heart, with one’s tongue or pen, and if these are ineffective, by physically trying to change an oppressive situation, either in self-defense or to defend others against aggression (like the Revolutionary War by the founding fathers against the oppressive policies of the British; or World War II against the aggression of Hitler.)

It is this last type of jihad that Muslim extremists believe they are fighting, which the media mis-translates as “holy war”.