“My name is actually Jihad,” he said as he stirred carbonara in his downtown Chicago studio apartment. It was one of our first dates.
“Oh?” I said, looking up from my wine glass.
He had quietly been asked to change his name by his company in Paris when he left his native Lebanon. He is neither a jihadist, nor even Muslim. But because of the heavy political connotations of his name, Jihad went by “Julien” in Paris before moving to the States a few years later, where he became known, simply, as “JK.”
Ironically he was given his name for sheer virtue of its religious neutrality. As the 15-year Civil War waged in Lebanon, militias were known to ask residents for their names at various checkpoints and, depending on what side they found themselves on, they could be gunned down because of their religion. Jihad, at the time, was neither a Christian nor a Muslim name.
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