Visiting professor to give talk on Islam and ISIS

March 9, 2015

April Wefler
[email protected]

Almost daily, reports emerge of violent actions by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Emran El-Badawi will be giving a lecture on “Islam, Violence, and the Problem of ISIS” on March 9 at 5 p.m. in Dwire Hall 121. A question and answer session will follow. The lecture will look at the genealogy of ISIS and how Americans are involved.

“As we see with these beheading videos and other news stories that come out about activities of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, it’s clear that they are a threat, but it’s unclear how big a threat and what the religion component of ISIS is,” said Jeffrey Scholes, director of the Center for Religious Diversity and Public Life.

Scholes said that there’s a tendency to see Islam as a violent religion.

“I personally think that’s a very dangerous connection to make immediately. To label all Islam is wrong, but I also think there could be a version of Islam that is motivating and driving these specific groups,” he said.

“This stuff happens all the time; you get kind of fundamentalist thinkers all around the world,” said El-Badawi, program director and assistant professor of Arab studies at the University of Houston.

“This kind was fostered by oil wealth, mobilizing religion through oil wealth and later on, getting involved with different foreign policies, namely U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.”

“It’s very important to realize our place in the world and what we’ve done,” he added. “ISIS didn’t happen overnight. [There were] red fl ags sounding for years and years; nobody took heed.”

El-Badawi said that it is important for Americans to understand that we went into Iraq and destroyed a peaceful country.

“We need to follow our foreign policy more; we need to see what kinds of bills are passed in our name. We need to be very actively involved,” he said.

He said that four presidents over a period of 20 years have been bombing Iraq. He also said that since 1776, the United States has been in a state of conventional war for about 70 percent of the time.

“I want [the audience] to know that it’s complex, and we as U.S. taxpayers play a role in this drama,” he said, adding that while the American invasion and occupation of Iraq alone doesn’t explain the rise of ISIS, it did play a large role.

He said that the miserable state of affairs and quality of life that the people suffer also contributed to the rise of ISIS.

El-Badawi explained the difference between Islam and ISIS is key to determine.

“ISIS is not Islam. ISIS is not anything. There is no group on earth that ISIS [associates with]. ISIS has been rejected by all its neighbors politically and all Muslims around the world religiously.”

El-Badawi said that he sends his students to the Middle East all the time and they return without issue.
“We should not let ignorance or fear take over because that’s what they want,” he said.

“I hope knowledge and clarity will be gained to help us have a better understanding of what’s going on over there,” said Scholes. “Not to say that you can justify, but to say Christianity is a peaceful religion and not a violent religion, that’s not historically accurate at all.”

“[You] should get to know other Muslims. The problems with Muslims and ISIS are in the Middle East, not in America,” El-Badawi said.