In an interview with, Catherine Shakdam, political commentator talked about jihad and how it is portrayed in the West. "The West’s understanding of JIHAD is not only flawed but it is rooted in ethnocentrism,” she said.

"The West is blaming Islam for the violence it itself professes. The West in other words is claiming victimhood away from its victims and painting its tyranny under a veneer of exceptionalism.”

The full transcript of the interview has been presented below.

The Arabic word "jihad” is often translated as "holy war”, but the word means struggling or striving. What does this mean for Muslims across the world?

Catherine Shakdam: One of the ironies of this era is that although the means of communication have greatly advanced, people still have difficulty in a meaningful communication and dialogue with other cultures and religions. There is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding when it comes to Islam and the principles it enounces. The meaning of JIHAD of course figures high on this list.

For all intent and purposes the West has equated and conflated JIHAD with violence, bloodshed, imperialism, and injustice. The word JIHAD has been stripped of its true meaning so that western capitals could sell their wars to a gullible public and in one smooth movement of the hand position themselves holier and greater than thou!

The West’s understanding of JIHAD is not only flawed but it is rooted in ethnocentrism. Beyond that of course western capitals are really serving a specific agenda and that is to discredit Islam to better reinvent themselves legitimate over all nations.

The West is blaming Islam for the violence it itself professes. The West in other words is claiming victimhood away from its victims and painting its tyranny under a veneer of exceptionalism.

The sad thing is most people have fallen for it.

JIHAD does not mean holy war - it means struggle. JIHAD is the struggle we all go through as we attempt to better ourselves and follow in the teachings of the Quran and AhlulBayt. As the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said himself at Badr after his army defeated the Quraysh: "Let us now go back to the greater JIHAD,” meaning speaking justice in the face of tyranny and enacting God’s religion on Earth.

What does Allah want Muslims to do when dealing with their enemies?

Catherine Shakdam: While I’m not a cleric and cannot therefore claim to lecture on Islam I do believe the Quran calls upon us to rise above our enemies’ evil deeds and answer with that which is better. Islam speaks above all else of Justice and that means treating all people, even our enemies with mercy and compassion. I believe the Prophet Muhammad and Imam Ali set the tone in that department, as they never strayed from the path and always treated people fairly, regardless.

There is great wisdom is answering injustice with justice - Islam never speaks of revenge, it speaks of order and balance. You only have to refer to the manner in which our Imams handled hardship to grasp the importance of measured patience in one’s struggle.

Violence should only be exercised as a last resort and always in self-defense. There are greater struggles than that of the sword - I believe Imam Khomeini was rather clear on that point as he never departed from the teachings of AhlulBayt when facing his enemies.

What’s wrong with using jihad in order to wage wars against other nations?

Catherine Shakdam: Exploiting JIHAD as a mean to sow discord is criminal if you ask me. Claiming JIHAD while acting a tyrant against nations equates to the greatest deception of all. History here offers many examples - I believe that we must refer of course to Muawiyah and his betrayal of both Imam Ali and Imam Hassan and then of course of his son Yazid’s actions against Imam Hussain.

Those men too claimed to be fighting JIHAD … they claimed holiness and yet had no qualms spilling the purest of blood so that they could yield power.

Maybe we ought to look at our History to learn not to repeat past mistakes and gain some insights into those lessons the Quran set out to teach us. Again, it would be foolish arrogance to assume that there is no wisdom in God’s injunctions.

Real JIHAD is not spent in violence but submission to God.

Real JIHAD is to surrender to God’s commands and the allegiance His prophet called for in Ghadeer … that for me is what JIHAD means - to hold true to those two weighty things the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) demanded we commit to.

How has the Western mainstream media portrayed jihad?

Catherine Shakdam: Mainstream media has been a dangerous tool in the hand of imperialism and by extension Takfirism.

Mainstream media has spun its venom against Islam and Muslims for well over a decade and of course it has built a myth around JIHAD trying to portray a lofty ideal into a nefarious act of violence.

Nowadays the public associate JIHAD with terrorism and of course Daesh (ISIS). Such was the plan all along. As long as Islam and Muslims can be blamed for all the violence that befell the world since 2001 then no party will question America’s neocons.

Is there an agenda behind this?

Catherine Shakdam: Of course there is an agenda at play. The name of the game is control. The West wants control over the Islamic world for the riches its nations house but also out of fear that Islam one day will come to challenge its imperial complex.

Islam, true Islam is the threat for it offers freedom and empowerment.

Iran more than any other nations in the world understands liberation since it enacted its own in 1979 by establishing the Governance of the Jurist. Wilayah in many ways is the antithesis of Western-style governance.

And so western powers are working to discredit Islam, its principles, its pillars so that its name will be sullied and desecrated.

Only they forget that Islam belongs not to this world …

Whatever evil their hands are buying is really against themselves.

This Interview first appeard on Jihady Online.


Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East with a special focus on radical movements and Yemen. A regular pundit on RT and other networks, her work has appeared in major publications such as MintPress, RT, Press TV, the Foreign Policy Journal, Mehr News, the Guardian, Middle East Eye, the Middle East Monitor and many others. The Director of Programs at the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting. In 2015 her research on Yemen was quoted and used by the UNSC in a resolution on Yemen Looted Funds. She is the author of Arabia’s Rising - Under The Banner Of The First Imam.