Jihad (جهاد) Explained

So you turn on the television, and you see on the news that another jihadist movement is fermenting terror around the world, you see several news stations talking about how Muslims have “infiltrated” America, you hear about jihadists are killing freedom- but I want to take a step back from all this, and talk about the very important word- Jihad.

(Boy will this be controversial.)

So what is Jihad? Jihad is a difficult word to explain, even for someone who has done extensive research on Islam and the Middle East.  Most of the time, it’s translated as “struggle”- the translation of jihad being  “holy war” is incorrect in most contexts. For most branches of Islam, there are two kinds of jihad- the lesser jihad, and the greater jihad- the outer struggle, and the inner struggle respectively. Traditionally, the internal struggle of faith, against one’s ego, combating desire,striving for good and justice is the greater jihad. When you think about it; of course the inner jihad is more important! I mean it’s constant, it’s harder, and remember what several of human civilization’s greatest thinkers said:

To conquer oneself is a greater task than conquering others.

But then why is it that by far, the lesser jihad- jihad of the sword- gains much more attention, and what does it tell us about ourselves?

Firstly, the lesser jihad is the physical struggle. Sometimes this can involve war, but not always. Now I’m not going to quote the Koran in fear of backlash for an incorrect translation or an allegorical meaning, but Islam only permits physical jihad against people who harm Muslims- not any non-believers.  It also clearly states (about jihad or war of any kind) that you shall not harm civilians, children nor infrastructure. But if this is so, then why do so many terrorists claiming to be under the banner of Islam kill hundreds of civilians and bomb hundreds of buildings a year- and when they point to a verse in the Koran, how can this justification be true?

Well, the first question is hard to answer- it can be for numerous reasons: Insanity, political motives, it could be a military move- but remember this: The Koran (for the most part, but we’ll address this problem later) promotes peace. Jihad- (which is a righteous thing, to struggle for God) is not what these terrorists conduct. Although it is debated, many prominent experts in the field say that the correct term for what terrorists do would be Hirabah ( حِرابة‎), translated usually as “unlawful warfare”, or “piracy”- hirabah also coming under a larger umbrella of Islam principle called Fasad, or basically crimes against law in the Muslim community. This term (Hirabah) means when someone creates unlawful chaos, destruction and rage- something that is heavily condemned in the Koran.  So now that we know that it’s not jihad, let’s move onto the second, more interesting question.

More than anything, the real issue of terrorists using the Koran as justification is with context. With anything, context can be very important. Historical context, geographical context, social context, these things are all very important to the reading of any book- a rule that is perhaps, highlighted in the case of the severely misunderstood Koran. With God was revealing His word to Muhammed the prophet, he was at war. These revelations, about slaying your enemies, was justification for fighting back then- but that doesn’t mean it is justification for fighting now. Of course, one could argue that if this were the case, then the Koran must be very loosely and abstractedly interpreted- but I’m not here to plead any case, just to explain. Quotes, when they are moved out of their context, can be misinterpreted very easily- this is the basis of what the terrorists call “justification from God”. Perhaps the most interesting case recently was the snippet of Obama’s speech about businesses that the Republicans used against him in the 2012 election.

Here’s a good example.

Claim: President Barack Obama believes that business owners do not deserve credit for the success of their business.

Quote: “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” (Barack Obama, stump speech in Roanoke, Virginia, July 13, 2012)

Quote in Context: “There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

(Credit: http://www.christianpost.com/news/out-of-context-quotes-in-the-2012-election-83309/#t47yf6ziCLVoZOFw.99)

So you can see why context is important.

Finally, I want to talk about why Islam is so misunderstood, especially in America. I really think fault can be placed on the media, but ultimately the fault falls on the people. Too many times, people just accept all these butchered, out-of-context quotes as fact, and too many times do people fall into the trap of not looking things up themselves. This combination- of a media which profits from stories involving terrorism and a significant number of people who will not bother to look things up- really separates the human race. We are all born equal, I’m sure everyone knows that; but too often the media tries to make it look otherwise.

Hopefully, you now know a little more about Islam, Jihad, Hirabah, terrorism and context. As always, if you have any suggestions for terms to be explained, go to the “ask” section of this blog- and if you have any questions or corrections (remembering that I’m not a Muslim, and even though in my Asian Studies degree I’ve covered Islam quite a bit- there’s still a lot to learn.) regarding Islam, Jihad, Hirabah, or basically anything mentioned above- don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

(Again, for fear of persecution, I have to say that there is no bias here. If you find something that resembles bias, it mustn’t be taken as such. Also, please don’t put hate comments below. I have no interest in fighting with you, and there’s nothing I find more horrible than a hate war where no-one wins, no information is exchanged and where everyone is left angry. Thanks!)

Checks and Balances Explained

Following President Obama’s recent 23 executive orders relating to gun control, there have been several attacks on the validity of his power to create these orders. Many people, some from the left, but most of them from the right are outraged; this tyranny controlling the peoples’ lives in a perverse and unconstitutional manner. So what I want to explain today, are checks and balances. A lot of people have been calling on the legislative branch (the Congress) to nullify these orders- but what exactly has the Congress got to do with Obama’s orders?

So firstly, what are checks and balances? Checks and balances are part of the system in which the US is governed. This system is part of a larger idea known as “Separation of Powers”. What this means in the US is that there are three branches of government; each with their own responsibilities and powers, and each of them as powerful as each other. So what are the three branches of government?

Firstly, we have the legislative branch. This is Congress, the people who “make” the laws. These people can repeal, pass and amend laws.

Then we have the executive branch. This is the president and his cabinet, who “executes” the law. They’re basically in charge of running the country; making sure that the laws are followed, the best interest of the people are tended to, and the country is administered well.

Finally, we have the judicial branch. This is the court system, the people who “judge” or “interpret” the law. Made up of the district, appeals and the supreme courts, they apply the law to specific cases, and can change/reinterpret laws, usually through the Supreme Court.

So back to check and balances. What they are essentially, are a set of powers given to each of the three branches of government, which can override another branches orders. What this does is that it prevents one branch from becoming too powerful. Why does America need these rules? Well, think about it this way- If the president could just do whatever he liked and pass whatever laws he liked, then America would become an actual tyranny. Luckily, these checks and balances prevent the constitutional republic from becoming a tyranny, by ensuring that no branch has too much power and therefore ensuring that the interest of the people is always represented. Here are the most important checks and balances.

The Legislative Branch

-The ability to override a veto from the president (with 2/3 of the vote from both houses in Congress)

-The ability to make rules for how the government is run.

-The power of impeachment- this is when a federal executive (like the president) or a judiciary officer (like a supreme court justice) is arrested by the House and trialed by the Senate for high crimes.

-Ratifies treaties signed by the president

The Executive Branch

-The ability to veto a bill from Congress

-The ability to declare states of emergency and to publish executive orders

-The president can appoint people to the federal judiciary and roles in the executive (like his cabinet) with the approval of Senate.

-The power to pardon a criminal (except in cases of impeachment)

The Judicial Branch

-The ability to review laws and declare them unconstitutional, effectively nullifying them

-The ability to review presidential orders/acts and declare them unconstitutional

A more complete diagram showing all of the Checks and Balances in the US.

A more complete diagram showing all of the Checks and Balances in the US.

(Credit: http://mrlibyouth.blogspot.com.au/p/homework-help.html)

You see how all this works? The Congress can override the president’s veto and impeach him, the president can veto Congress’s bills, the president appoints judges, the judges can declare the presidents acts unconstitutional  the judges can declare Congress’s laws unconstitutional, and the Congress can impeach judges and also helps appoint them. Basically, each of the three powers have certain abilities to override another power’s actions. This means that no branch with become too powerful and it also means that bad ideas that are made in only one or two branches aren’t going to apply to the whole of America.

So that’s checks and balances for you. I hope you all now understand how the Congress and the Supreme Court can override the President’s executive orders. Don’t hesitate to suggest terms for me to explain in the “ask” section of the blog and if you have any questions relating to checks, balances, separation of powers, president orders or anything related to this article, don’t hesitate to comment below.

(Note: In this article, anything that resembles political bias must not be taken as such. This article is purely for information and does not contain my opinion on any issues.)

Socialism Explained

Socialism and socialist are two terms that are thrown around a lot in the media especially recently, and sometimes incorrectly and ignorantly. So what is socialism really?

Well to begin, socialism is a system in which the working class, collectively control the means of production and distribution of goods. To simplify even further, its when the working class control the distribution of wealth and property. This control can be executed directly, from organisations such as workers’ councils.

Now the people aren’t always in direct control of this system; Sometimes on behalf of the people, the state executes the control. Indirect and direct control aside though, socialism (at it’s core) is the belief in a government/system for the benefit of society, as a whole.

In case you still haven’t caught on, here is an great example I found while looking this up:

” So in Capitalism an individual or group of individuals would own a factory, all the machines that produce, let’s say a car, and all the cars produced. They then hire workers to make the cars and pay them wages that they compete with each other for. Afterwards they sell the cars and keep what they make above their expenses as profit. In Socialism the workers in the factory own the factory, machines, and the cars produced. After they produce their cars they sell them on a market and distribute what they make above their expenses amongst themselves. The workers only have collective ownership of where they work and what they produce.”

(credit: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_difference_between_socialism_and_communism)

So Obama and all his left-wingers socialists that Fox News is always talking about- aren’t actually socialists. America in general, isn’t even close to socialist, even with a democrat president.  So before you jump on the band-wagon to call him a evil socialist- he really isn’t.

(I want to specify as well, that I am not saying that socialism is better or worse than capitalism. Just stating the facts.)

In the end, a socialist ultimately believes in the idea of the collective ownership and management of the economy – by the people, for the people.