Shamiyan Hawramani, a fourth-year in human development and family sciences and member of the Muslim Students’ Association at Ohio State, spent her summer in Kurdistan, volunteering in refugee camps for people fleeing from the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State.
She and other members of the MSA have denounced that group — also known as ISIS — claiming it’s unrepresentative of their beliefs.
“They are in essence bringing back everything that Islam abolished,” Hawramani said.
Hawramani said the group’s oppression of women is also against Islamic beliefs.
“Islam referred to the time before the prophet as the ‘Age of Ignorance’ because of how women were treated,” Hawramani said. “Islam gives women all of these rights, and (ISIS) is trying to take them down one by one.”
ISIS’s goal is to rule over the Islamic world based on its interpretation of the Quran, which some MSA members said is misconstrued. In the process, it’s been reported that they have persecuted and discriminated against people of many minorities and religions through murder, rape, enslavement and displacement.
An Amnesty International report released on Sept. 2 stated that ISIS is carrying out ethnic cleansing. According to the report, it has been “killing or abducting hundreds, possibly thousands” of people in non-Arab and non-Sunni Muslim communities, and “forcing more than 830,000 others to flee the areas it has captured” since June 10.
More urgent concerns about the terrorist organization hit America when it released videos showing the beheadings of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
“(The group) has violated just about every single prophetic tradition and teaching (in Islam),” said Abdulrahman Alwattar, co-president of MSA and a fourth-year in public affairs.
On ISIS’s forced conversions of non-Muslims, Alwattar said, “There’s a verse in the Quran: There’s no compulsion in religion.”
Alwattar also said ISIS’s violence isn’t representative of Islam.
“Human life is an enormous commodity in Islam. It’s not something to be taken lightly,” Alwattar said. “This romanticism of martyrdom that (ISIS) has pushed is not congruent with what Islam is about.”
He paraphrased another verse from the Quran: If you kill one person it is as if you killed all of humanity, and if you save one person it is as if you saved all of humanity.
Some MSA members said they do not see the trend of Islamic radicalism in the past few decades as an effect of the religion itself.
“These organizations are a result of Western interference in affairs that don’t have anything to do with them,” said Abderrahmane Amor, a second-year in political science and Islamic studies and MSA member. “The Arabs and Muslims were known for their hospitality, as well as the protection of the people of the book and any religion,” he said.
Amor said the creation of ISIS and preceding terrorist groups was inevitable because of the political instability of the war-torn regions they appear in.
“Displacing hundreds of thousands, killing thousands in the process, you’re going to create groups like this and they’re going to fight against you,” he said, referring to wars in the Middle East in which Western countries have been involved. “So what’s happening today is a result of inaction toward oppression.”
Alwattar agreed with Amor.
“If we look at where these organizations are popping up, they’re in parts of the world that have been ravaged from the developed world,” he said. “Our foreign policies in the Middle East have been really destructive in trying to export resources.”
President Barack Obama’s recently proposed plan to defeat ISIS using air strikes is not an exception to ineffective Western foreign policy in the eyes of Amor.
“Obama is the fourth-straight president in American history to bomb Iraq,” he said. He said Obama’s strategy would not work.
Jeffrey Lewis, a lecturer in the international studies program at OSU and author of “The Business of Martyrdom: A History of Suicide Bombing,” teaches courses about terrorism. He said Obama’s strategy is treating the symptoms of the disease rather than the disease itself.
“The growth of (ISIS) has really been a consequence of the instability of the region more so than it is a reflection of the strength of the group. Certainly more so than the support of the group,” Lewis said. “Treating the cause would require a massive commitment of resources and manpower that we aren’t willing to make.”
One thing is clear to MSA members: ISIS is not Islam.
“There are over 1.6 billion Muslims in the world,” said Mushtaq Dualeh, co-president of MSA and fourth-year in public health development studies.
“If (the group) was what Islam truly was, the world wouldn’t be the way it is right now. And there are millions of Muslims in America, and if we really were like (ISIS) then you would know,” Dualeh said.
In fact, Islam really attempts to send the opposite message Amor said.
“Islam is peace,” he said. “It literally means submission in peace.”