by Hesham Rostami, Staff Writer
Assyrian student Kevin Yonan is a member of a Middle-Eastern ethnic community originally from modern-day Iraq and a current target of ISIS violence. ISIS marauders “just want power, and by disguising it as their religion, they can say ‘We’re always right, and if you don’t listen to us, you’re wrong,’” he says.
In light of fighting waged by extremist Muslim groups in the Middle East and maligning of Islam by presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, humanities professor Rudra Dundzila discussed religious violence in the library. A crowd of approximately 80 students and staff gathered on April 6 between 2 and 3 p.m. to hear the outspoken professor dissect myths, especially the belief that Islam influences the fighting in countries such as Iraq and Syria.
Yonan was one of the many students who were present at Dundzila’s presentation. In fact, the turnout was larger than the amount of seating room, an issue that administrators quickly resolved by placing a new row of chairs.
Stereotypes about the faith of Islam being inherently violent prompt the calls made by Cruz for increased police patrols in neighborhoods heavily populated by Muslims. On the contrary, Dundzila demonstrated that although violent passages appear in many religious scriptures, they are few when compared to passages imploring mercy and compassion. Religious belief, in and of itself, does not cause violence in countries like Iraq, but acts as one of a series of factors, such as economic disadvantage, which lead to it, he said.
Associate Dean of Instruction DeShaunta Stewart said that educating people academically about the world is the quintessence of the college experience. She adds that, because of preconceived notions, the public’s treatment of Muslims is not very different from how African-Americans used to be treated.
Per the Southern Poverty Law Center, crimes targeting Muslims increased by 14 percent in 2014, despite a decrease in the overall rate of hate crime that year.
According to Vice President Dr. Pervez Rahman, dealing with religious violence is especially critical for world peace. Jewish Israelis and Christian and Muslim Arabs currently dispute the hotly-contested land of Palestine. Because of historical American intervention in the Middle East, Rahman warned, the disputing parties might not settle for peace deals negotiated by the United States.
Above all, educating oneself against radical propaganda is key to overcoming ignorance and bettering the American public’s understanding about the true nature of Islam, Dundzila elucidates. In addition to informing themselves, he continued, people should also volunteer with groups and community organizations dedicated to protecting Muslim-American residents and ensuring that violent ideologies are not allowed to gain ground.
Either way, it will not be an easy chore. As Yonan cynically put it, “People are naturally divisive. They just need any little reason to do something.”