In June of 2002, when asked to give a graduation speech at Harvard, Zayed Yasin, a Muslim, wrote a speech in which he explained his definition of a Jihad. In accordance with the subject matter, Yasin titled his speech “My American Jihad.” When Harvard requested him to change the title, he complied. This action, though, stirred up many who believed Yasin had a right to use his original title. From the stance John Milton takes in his essay, Aeropagitica, one can clearly see that he would argue against Harvard’s decision to censor the title of Yasin’s speech. Milton, however, overzealously defends free speech and fails to recognize that the authorities must withhold some things from people under their governing authority.
Though Yasin appears to attempt to portray a different aspect of the word “Jihad” in his speech than that aspect that has dominated America over the past year, he fails to recognize its more common meaning. Rather, he excuses the common meaning as having been “corrupted and misinterpreted.” In his speech, Yasin explains that to him, Jihad “is the determination to do right, to do justice even against your own interests. It is an individual struggle for personal moral behavior.” Yasin continues to explain his definition of Jihad and gives more details about it. According to author Abdullah Al Araby, although Yasin correctly describes Jihad as a personal, inner struggle, Jihad also means, “fighting in the name of Allah.” Al Araby explains, “In this sense Jihad is the struggle for the cause of spreading Islam, using all means available to Muslims, including force. This kind of Jihad is often referred to as ‘Holy War’.” As a result of the recent September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, people refer to this definition when discussing the term Jihad. Contrary to popular belief, Islam does not teach peace to the extent most Americans think it does. The Qu’ran, the holy book of Islam, commands, “Fight (kill) them (non-Muslims), and Allah will punish (torment) them by your hands, cover them with shame” (Surah 9:14). Numerous similar commands exist in the Qu’ran (Al Araby).
Not only does Yasin present a misleading and deceptive argument by explaining merely half of the meaning of the term Jihad, but he also, by using the term in conjunction with the adjective “American,” implies that Americans participate in Jihad. One can conclude that Americans have a Jihad, but only in the sense of a struggle. On the other hand, the violent definition of “Holy War” does not describe Americans in any way, shape or form. Among many reasons, because Osama Bin Laden saw the United States as a Christian nation, he organized the September 11 attacks. Because Islamic-run governments who simply follow the commands of the Qu’ran have enmity toward Christians, they kill Muslims who convert to Christianity and do not recant (DcTalk). In America, though, religion does not dominate the government, as it does in most Islamic countries. Americans have the freedom to worship as they please – they do not have a fear of being killed by Muslim radicals for believing in Jesus or by any one else for any other religious belief.
Furthermore, the original title and speech delivered by Yasin offends many people, especially after September 11. Though Yasin simply desired to explain his view of Jihad, using that term in the title would have upset people before they even heard what he had to say. Most likely, some people present at the commencement ceremony had friends or family members who died as a result of the terrorist attacks. As a result of the second meaning of Jihad, terror strikes in their hearts and brings back memories of the horrendous slaughter. Giving a speech entitled “My American Jihad” in June 2002 yields the same result as giving a speech entitled “Mein Kampf” to a diverse audience consisting partially of Jews, a year or so after World War II finished. Though “Mein Kampf” means simply “My Struggle,” in the book, Hitler describes his beliefs and desire for a pure, Aryan race (Microsoft Corporation). As a result of the content contained within the book, use of Hitler’s title as the title for a speech would raise an emotional reaction against the speech before the speaker delivered the speech, regardless of whether the speech discussed something good. During World War II, Hitler attempted to accomplish his goal of creating a pure, Aryan race. Just as “Mein Kampf” means more than “My Struggle” because of the Holocaust, so “Jihad” means more than “struggle.”
In contrast John Milton premises in Aeropagitica that, given a choice of right and wrong, people will naturally choose good. He believes that people need to familiarize themselves with both good and evil literature because those truly wise people can differentiate between the two and follow what the right choice. From his optimistic view of man and his belief that man can “know good by evil,” one can assume that Milton would have opposed Harvard’s decision to censor Yasin’s speech title. According to Milton, any truly wise American would have no trouble distinguishing the deceit in Yasin’s speech.
Milton’s thinking contained flaws because of the influences of Armenian theology, which teaches that man can do good without assistance from God (Luxon). Contrary to Armenian theology, the Bible teaches in Romans that because of mankind’s original sin, “there is no one righteous” and there is “no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:10-11). Because man is naturally sinful, he cannot choose what is good without assistance from God. Yasin’s speech has the potential to deceive the American people, who can’t discern between right and wrong, by casting Jihad in a good light. Those who have a cursory knowledge of Islam do not know the meaning of Jihad that Yasin fails to mention and, thus, cannot choose good.