"Against the Current" Jihadist!

I am both Lebanese and Canadian. I was born in Lebanon, survived the 80s physical war, left for Montreal in 1999 to pursue my studies, was stuck in Lebanon during the Summer 2006 war, and decided, along with my husband, to leave Canada and live again in Lebanon.

I am what many define as ‘against the current’ (aaks al sayr).

I chose to study the religious phenomenon and become a Doctor in Sciences of Religions when my family was encouraging me to be a Medical Doctor. I chose to teach in highly patriarchal environments where secular women are almost nonexistent, when I had the opportunity to follow a successful career path in a ‘healthier’ context. I chose to do politics the ‘bottom-up’ way, when I was asked to be part of a ‘top-down’ corrupt system. I developed a mediatory social-political theory of diversity management in Lebanon when the only ‘allowed’ alternatives were Sectarianism, Mono-Religious State, or Secular. I chose to fight for women’s rights when many activists told me other fights should be my priority – women’s rights are ‘secondary’ or just ‘futile bourgeois claims’ in a world of poverty, social injustices and political turmoil. I fought – and am still fighting – for Interfaith dialogue and Human Dialogue where fanatic and exclusivist approaches became ‘norms’. I fight for political gender equality when most Lebanese feminists are fighting for the minimum quota in the Parliament. I fight for a holistic approach in Life management in a country labeled the ‘Mecca of Plastic Surgery’ and the ‘Empire of Physical Beauty Standards’.

Against the current…

Not a heroic journey…

Just a different mindset and praxis using specific mind/ body motions and energy in the environment to direct my journey upstream without much “muscular” investment. Like a fish employing a swimming motion to harness the energy of eddies in flowing water.

I am not saying that it is not exhausting to be against the current, but it is manageable and positively challenging.

What about the ‘Jihad’?

Jihad is the Arabic for what can be variously translated as “struggle” or “effort,” or “to strive,” “to exert,” “to fight,” depending on the context. In the West, the word is generally understood to mean “holy war,” and the terms are given, inaccurately, exclusively military connotations. The Quran does call for “jihad” as a military struggle on behalf of Islam. But the Quran also refers to jihad as an internal, individual, spiritual struggle toward self-improvement, moral cleansing and intellectual effort. It is said that Prophet Muhammad considered the armed-struggle version of holy war “the little jihad,” but considered the spiritual, individual version of holy war–the war within oneself–as “the great jihad.”

I am referring here to the basic Arabic meaning without a religious connotation: an effort. Not a self-defensive effort i.e. to combat the enemies with a sword; but a mental/spiritual effort to be fulfilled using the mind, the heart, the tongue (speech) and the hand (writing). In other words, a deconstructive-constructive struggle, an inquiry into the conditions of possibilities and impossibilities; uncovering what Jacques Derrida calls a type of ‘structural unconscious’ or blind spots for the purposes of intervening against injustice; examining what Mohammed Arkoun calls the ‘unthought’ and the ‘unthinkable’ dimensions while criticizing what stands within the enclosure or the ‘thinkable’.

In a time where war is the predominant culture, where the survival of the fittest is the rule, and physical/material strength the source of authority, an ‘against the current jihadist’ uses the pacifist thinking-rethinking process, following the notion of a personal spiritual quest which creates a new kind of human being as described by Socrates, Jesus and Buddha: an autonomous individual responsible for his/her choices and actions, and not beholden to any group.

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