What All Americans Need to Know About ISIS/ISIL

What All Americans Need to Know About ISIS/ISIL

Speakers: David Carlson and Ayesha Butt

In his talk, “What All Americans Need to Know About ISIS/ISIL,” Franklin University Religious Studies Professor David Carlson sets out to help listeners understand the origins, the rage, the vision and the attitude of proponents of ISIS/ISIL towards the west. As many Americans see ISIS/ISIL as a group that seemed to pop up overnight, Carlson provides historical background that has shaped the group and its ideologies. While he doesn’t promise to take away all his listener’s fears, he hopes to help people see their fears in a larger context in order to better understand it.

Carlson explains that in order to understand the rage driving ISIS/ISIL, it is first necessary to review how western interference, especially in the last one hundred years, has shaped the current state of the Middle East. Dating back to WWI, the French and British promised the creation of an Arab state in order to gain support from Arabs in the Ottoman Empire. Following WWI, this promise was not granted; instead the area was carved into the map we see today. This manufacturing of nation-states by outsiders and the betrayal felt by specific Arabs created a deep sense of humiliation and distrust. This sense of humiliation has deepened as the United States continues to be heavily involved in the region.

The desire by affected Arabs to seek dehumiliation, which he explains is “a cultures response to feeling humiliated and taking action to remove the humiliation,” has helped to legitimize ISIS/ISIL. Adding to that is ISIS/ISIL’s sophisticated recruitment tactics that use PR, social media and videography in a way that speaks to today’s generation of young men who desire to be a part of something meaningful. Carlson explains that in order to defeat ISIS we are going to need to change the minds of the young men who are signing up to join them. In order to do that, Carlson says, “We are going to need to meet a spiritual vision with a spiritual vision. I am committed to the idea that interfaith cooperation is the kind of vision I have seen energize people in a healthy way.” He also calls for Shia and Sunni Muslims living in the West, to serve as examples of religious coexistence and harmony.

Indiana University Professor Ayesha Butt provides a Muslim perspective of the group. She begins by clearly stating that ISIS/ISIL does not represent Islam. In fact, it contradicts the tenants of Islam, which does not condone the killing of innocent people, noting how many victims of ISIS/ISIL have been Muslims. ISIS/ISIL’s claim to Islam has caused many non-Muslims to misunderstand the religion. This has resulted in the growing need for Muslims to defend themselves and their religion. By deconstructing the action of ISIS/ISIL and comparing them to the beliefs of Islam and Islamic Law, Butt is able to prove that the group is not only utterly incompatible with Islam, it is an abomination to the religion. She believes that defeating ISIS/ISIL begins with a collective understanding that those who follow ISIS/ISIL are not Muslims; an understanding that she hopes can be achieved through greater interfaith dialogue.

CLICK HERE to watch a video recording of the seminar.

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