Wednesday, September 05, 2007


This image is from a poster for director Hina Khan's film, Jihad - Struggling With Islam. The film documents her personal jihad, her inner struggle, with her own faith and identity after the events of 9/11.

Many people do not understand that the term "jihad" has a meaning separate from that used by media and uninformed people. Jihad is mistakenly referred to as "holy war". Say the word jihad and images are conjured up of car bombs, expoding buildings, bearded men yelling "Allahu Akbar" and on and on. There is no such thing as a holy war in Islam.

Why am I writing about jihad?

Well, as my blog suggests, part of my name is Jihad. It is my husband's name. The Quran tells Muslims that we should keep the name of our fathers. My birth name is Sharon Elayne Levine. When I married my husband, I did not take his name as my last name. Rather, I inserted it before my father's name. Thus, I use the name of S. E. Jihad Levine. Among Muslims and close friends, I am known as "Safiyyah".

A friend of mine asked me to write a book review and back cover blurb for a Musim author who will soon be publishing her first book.

When I received the manuscript, it was badly in need of content and copy edit. It had numerous errors about Islam and the grammar was horrible. The author's first language is not English. So, I spent many hours and exchanged a number of emails in order to tighten up the manuscript. I then wrote a long review for the author to use for marketing purposes. Also did the blurb for the back cover. After many hours of work, I sent a good draft to the author and to my friend for their review. I didn't charge for this work. I did it as a favor for my friend. I also did it for the exposure. All I asked of the author was that she keep by byline intact when sending out the review. My byline included my name: S. E. Jihad Levine.

Well! The author sent an email to my friend stating that she was "alarmed" when she saw the word "jihad" in my name. She feels it may jeopordize what she is trying to achieve. And what is she trying to achieve?

She wants to market her book mainly to non Muslims. Muslims are not her target audience. The characters of her book are Muslims. She wants to present Islam in a positive light.

"Jihad" in someone's name may put off the non Muslims.

So, she asks, would I be willing to change my byline to "Safiyyah Levine" or "J. Levine".

No, I am not willing to sanitize my name for the non Muslims.

What is up with this internalized Islamophobia in some Muslims? Examples of it include:

1. Changing a Muslim name to an "American" one, i.e., Samir to Sammy, Mohammad to Moe, etc.
2. Not wearing a hijab.
3. Not wearing a beard.
4. Celebrating non-Islamic holidays, i.e., Christmas, Mother's Day, etc.

I'm sure you can think of more examples.

No non Muslim I know is put off by my name. As a matter of fact, my non Muslims friends think my name is comical ... a Muslim name and a Jewish name put together.

And I have never had a Muslim editor ask me to change/delete my Jewish name of "Levine".

Good thing my husband's name is not Sadaam or Osaama!


Anonymous said...

You go girl! Take it or leave it. Muslim Americans are here to stay.

Al-Hussain Arshad Yassin said...
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