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Word’s meaning disputed

Major news organizations such as CNN and MSNBC reported early Tuesday morning that the Taliban ? the Islamic organization that controls most of Afghanistan ?declared a holy war, or jihad, against the United States. But did they?

According to the tenth edition of Webster?s Collegiate Dictionary a jihad is either a ?holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty? or ?a crusade for a principle or belief.?

One USF professor and a Muslim student suggest President George W. Bush and the media be more careful with their words.

Dell DeChant, a world religions professor, said the word jihad is being thrown around too much without much regard for its varying definitions.

?It?s being used much too freely and perhaps without much reflection,? DeChant said.

DeChant said within Islam, the word is usually understood to mean a struggle to be true to the will of God and not holy war. He said the Arabic word ?salam? means peace and Islam as a whole means the peaceful submission to the will of Allah.

Muslim student Jenan Kurdi Biuk said the word jihad has one meaning.

?It means the struggle or fight against internal and external desires,? Kurdi Biuk said.

Kurdi Biuk also has a problem with the usage of the term holy war and said it was an oxymoron.

?I hate those words,? she said. ?Those two words seem like opposites.?

Kurdi Biuk said there are specific rules that justify war in the Muslim religion.

?There are very strict rules when it comes to war,? she said. ?First, it has to be out of self defense, and on the battlefield only soldiers can be killed.?

President George W. Bush said Sunday ?This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a long time.? But DeChant said the word crusade can also be interpreted two ways.

?When the president says ?crusade,? he is not speaking of a religious war. He uses it to mean a long and virtuous defense of the U.S. I think,? DeChant said. ?When others hear it in the Muslim community, it can be received in a different way.?

Kurdi Biuk agrees.

?When I hear the word crusade, the first thing that comes to mind is the religious wars,? Biuk said.

DeChant said leaders must choose their words more carefully in the future.

?The most important thing is to be cautious with the words we may use and the judgments we may form about other people,? he said.

Over the past week, U.S. media have used the word jihad to mean only ?holy war,? but they are not alone in using the word in that context. According to a report, Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar said: ?Each Muslim should be ready for a jihad against this and be ready for his religion if there is a need to sacrifice himself for Islam and his belief.?

Contact Ryan Meehanat