It all seemed multiculturally-correct that that most diversity-minded of governors, Tim Kaine of Virginia, should appoint Dr. Esam Omeish, a prominent Muslim leader, to his new Commission on Immigration. It soon came to light, however, that seven years ago, Omeish delivered a speech at Lafayette Square in which he said of the Palestinians (”Philistieims” is the word he used) “. . . you have known the jihad way is the way to liberate your land.” And, shades of the 21st Century, there it was on videotape for all to see.
Dr. Omeish was forced to resign but immediately offered a defense that we’ve heard regularly since 9/11. It’s all a “misinterpretation.” These statements were taken “out of context.” He was apparently using the word “jihad” in the sense of some kind of internal mental struggle. However, that’s hard to accept. For if you look at the sentence above – “Palestinians,” “liberate,” “land” – it seems pretty clear, contextually, that what he is talking about is the jihad of suicide bombers, car bombs and Katyusha rockets.
It strikes me as curious that after 1,400 years of existence and with over one billion adherents, Muslime Arabs use the same word, jihad, to describe everything from planes crashing into the World Trade Center to some personal inner battle for identity, or whatever. There does not even appear to be an Arab adjective to modify the word jihad and differentiate the two meanings. The consequences of misinterpretation are too dire to be fobbed off as “It’s an Arab thing; you wouldn’t understand.” And I hasten to add that in other Islamic cultures, they may actually assign different words.
What we have here is a failure to communicate.