URBANA, Ill., April 12 (UPI) -- A professor in Illinois suggests Islamic terrorists should be called hirabists, not jihadists, to make it clear they have nothing to do with religion.
Mohammad Khalil, a professor of religious studies at the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois, said in a recent interview with the university's news bureau calling terrorists jihadists is a misnomer.
"Jihad is a struggle for a greater good," Khalil said. "It can include armed struggle. But Muslim jurists have long regarded acts of violence that lead to a sense of fear and a sense of helplessness among civilian populations, Muslim or non-Muslim, to be not jihad but something called hiraba.
"Many often mistranslate hiraba as highway robbery. In fact, hiraba is not too dissimilar from our modern understanding of terrorism. There was a recent memo circulating in the State Department suggesting that we refer to the radicals as hirabists, not jihadists. This would help undermine the radicals' approach."
He said though many Muslims initially had a positive view of suicide bombings, "I would hazard that most Muslims today regard suicide bombing as a detestable act, especially when civilians are among the victims."
Khalil also complained the Internet is giving a forum for those who know little about Islam to make false claims and spread misunderstanding. He said the non-Muslim world needs to educate itself.
"So long as Muslims are regarded as the mysterious, possibly scary 'other,' there will be no real understanding. And this goes both ways," he said. "It is also important that non-Muslims be represented in the media in the Muslim world."