There is a lot of debate over what exactly Muslims are called to do when they are expected to engage in Jihad. If jihad means to kill the unbelievers, it makes for pretty bad public relations for Islam. On the other hand, if Muslims are expected to be in a “struggle to maintain the straight path of Islam,” that sounds quite good. Which is true? Which is being taught in mosques? The Naval Criminal Investigative Services has prepared a report which explains:
The term “jihad” has its roots in the Arabic verb “j-h-d,” whose meaning generally is interpreted as “to endeavor, strive, labor, take great pains.” The noun form generally refers to a struggle. According to some, it typically connotes a great effort in the struggle to maintain the straight path of Islam.
However, Bernard Lewis (2003), eminent historian of Islam and the Middle East, notes that the concept of jihad in the great majority of the Arabic language and Islamic writings refers to a religious duty to take action against infidels or non-believers, for the sake of God Almighty (Allah). Other Islamic scholars also support Lewis’ contention that in orthodox –not even extremist – usage, jihad almost always refers to the duty to fight against “the enemies of Islam.” (emphasis added)
Source: The Fundamentals of Islamic Extremism Prepared for the FBI’s National Joint Terrorism Task Force
NCIS report on Islamic Extremism