'Jihad' is a battle of the self - not war on society

Please consider your definition of "jihad." Many publications are defining jihad as "holy war," but this is a false definition of what has become popularly known as an Islamic terrorist campaign. "Jihad" means "struggle" - a struggle against forces of corruption both within the soul and in the human sphere. By propagating the idea that jihad is a holy war, you perpetuate a misunderstanding of what jihad means to those who live the word. While jihad means war to a minority of Muslims, most see it as a struggle to live according to Scripture.

Spiritual war is waged within the mind; the outer war is a pale reflection of an inner battle to understand that reality is love, peace, and comprehension. Militants like Osama bin Laden don't know what jihad really means.

Jason M. DeBord Cincinnati

Jihad's "holy war" terrorist interpretation is an isolated teaching of Islam, one which does not represent Islam any more than David Koresh or Jim Jones represented the full teaching of Christianity. Jihad is a personal battle of the higher-self essence against lower-self tendencies. Since religions allow relaxed interpretation, people tend to draw self-improvement concepts to parallel the general scope of life. There are various "denominations" in Islam, just as in Christianity. In Islam, the more commonly known are Sunni, Shiite, and Orthodox. No single group represents a whole religion - regardless of how much media coverage it receives.

Daoud Bey Camden, N.J.

You report that President Bush's use of the word "crusade" may anger moderate Muslims. It is appropriate for Americans to consider the nuances of our language; but other cultures should try to understand our phrases, too. The American use of this word is less derived from medieval crusades pitting European Christians against Arabic Muslims, than from our own reformers who led crusades against corruption in local politics. The president did not intend to offend Muslims, but to energize Americans.

Lawrence Winans Minneapolis

Cultural insights on Afghans, Iranians

Why do Afghans protect Osama bin Laden? It is an aspect of Afghan culture. According to Afghanistan traditions, if a man is escaping and hides in another man's house, the host must protect him from outsiders, even fight to the death in his defense. Those familiar with Afghan culture know this; Osama bin Laden knows it, too. He is relying on this custom to protect him, even though most Afghans do not want him there.

Sam Sloan Brooklyn, N.Y.

Regarding "US must woo Pashtuns deftly" (Sept. 24):Perhaps you could examine the Pathan concept of badal. It seems to me that under the rules of badal (blood revenge), once it has been established that someone has violated group norms, the group is obligated to present that person to the aggrieved party for such punishment as the party sees fit. If we are following tribal customs, then perhaps tribal elders (not religious leaders) should recognize that their guests have committed a blood crime against the world, and should be punished as the world sees fit.

Chris Wise Raleigh, N.C.

Thank you for your excellent article "In Iran, families pack a picnic for the park" (Sept. 12). It sheds light on a society that Americans still understand so little - and it's an important story to read now, when some are quick to label Muslims as terrorists. The Iranian emphasis on going out as a family and communities gathering in parks late in the evening are examples we can draw from.

Dan Chalk Midland, Mich.

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