Middle East studies in the News
Wofford Students Given Look at How Terrorism Affects the Middle East
by Zach Fox
A class of Wofford College students was recently given an inside look at what led to the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group.
Nearly two dozen students learned about the terrorist organization during an interim course called Exploring the Middle East. During January, Wofford College students participate in the Wofford Interim, a series of unique monthlong courses designed to expand on what they learn during the rest of the year.
"I hope to answer some questions you didn't know you had," said Phillip Dorroll, assistant professor of religion at Wofford. "This is designed to address information I wish the average American had."
Dorroll co-teaches the course with his wife, Courtney. He told students jihadism, which he called the newest and most extreme branch of Islam, is only a few decades old.
The extremism that launched terror groups like the Islamic State was created by many factors, including several U.S. foreign policy decisions.
"Our foreign policy has played a part in that. Not the only part, but a part," he said. "We didn't start the fire, but we dumped gasoline on it for 30 years."
Politics and Islam have a complicated history, Dorroll told students. He said in the 20th century, two interpretations arose of Islam's relationship with government. One dealt with how Islam intersected with democracy.
The other, known as Islamism, viewed the religion as its own form of government, he said.
"Islamism is Islam itself as a form of politics," he said.
Sophomore Peter Harbert said he enrolled in the interim course to learn more about the Middle East, its history and the conflicts that will likely shape its future.
"I want to work in the Middle East," he said. "It's important to me to know the history of these struggles."
A huge misconception, Dorroll said, is that Islamism is equal to the kind of Islam practiced by terrorist groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida.
Islamism often reflects a socially conservative government, while jihadists are more extreme, he said.
"This is a splinter movement," he said. "It's not the same as Islamist politics."
The rise of the Islamic State can be traced to four distinct points — the dictatorships in Syria and Iraq, jihadism and the American invasion of Iraq, Dorroll said.
He said the Islamic State has an apocalyptic view of Islam, and acts irrationally, even to other known terrorist organizations.
"No one really knows what to do with ISIS," Dorroll said.
Mahnoor Haq, a freshman at Wofford, said she signed up for the interim class to learn more about Islamophobia.
"I think a lot of people are afraid because of a lack of information," she said.
She said that when people equate Islam with the Islamic State, it damages the religion.
"I'm a Muslim, and I don't understand what ISIS is thinking," she said.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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