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Abstract

The term Jihad, meaning Muslim ‘holy war,’ is a powerful symbol in contemporary society, signifying not only radical violence but the clash of Islamic and Western societies. The demonization and reduction of Islam in popular American culture, particularly with respect to suicide bombings and Political Islam, suggests that Islam is an inherently violent or extremist religion. A brief reading of current studies of the Qur’anic stance on war and violence, however, suggests that the Qur’an supports pragmatism and conservatism regarding the use of force. The Qur’an legitimates the use of force when it is necessary to defend the Muslim community against non-believers, but provides a detailed framework for ethical conduct in war. Islamic legal justifications for war arose in societies in which war was a practical reality; the development of Islamic just war theories occurred as a mechanism for reconciling theory and practice.

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