Jihad represents one of the most used and abused concepts of the post 9/11 era. Despite a long and complex history, the idea of jihad has recently been co-opted into seemingly endless debates on Islam, as the politicized symbol either of violent “holy war” or of peaceful “striving” for religious self-betterment. This presentation will provide needed context for such popular uses and abuses, examining the multiple meanings of jihad across time. In particular, the talk will provide an overview of the origins and development of the term during the eras of the Prophet Muhammad and early Islamic statecraft; of subsequent re-definitions during the age of European empire; and of the fraught relationship between jihad and “terrorism” in the late 20th century. While most of the talk will focus on the Middle East, brief case studies from South and Southeast Asia will help highlight the diversity of jihad in theory and practice.
Speaker: Joshua Gedacht, Fellow, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin