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Communications and Marketing

Fatima Rahman’s upcoming talk draws media interest

The Chicago Tribune’s Lake Forester newspaper interviewed Assistant Professor Fatima Rahman for a preview article about her April 10 talk on the Islamic State.

Lake Forest professor to hold talk on Islamic State

By Mark Lawton

The threat of the Islamic State will be the subject of a talk by Assistant Professor Fatima Rahman at First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest on April 10.

Rahman is chair of Islamic World Studies at Lake Forest College. The talk is part of an effort to bring attention to interfaith issues.

“We’re doing our best in this hot political season to educate the congregation and community on interfaith concerns and issues in the Middle East,” said Christine Chakoian, senior pastor at First Presbyterian.

In recent months, the church has hosted a pastor from Iraq who spoke about Christians in that country, a reverend from the north suburbs who started a Christian-Muslim dialogue and a representative from a Washington, D.C.-based organization that studies the Middle East.

“The dialogue between Muslims and Christians is not a new thing but it’s not very common in the U.S.,” Chakoian said. “It’s important to offer history and context. It’s easy for Americans to assume that ISIS represents Islam or that Muslims in the Middle East are of one mind in what’s going on.”

That is not the case, Rahman said. Members of the Islamic State follow what she calls political Islam, as opposed to theological or mainstream Islam.

“[Islamic State] uses a lot of rhetoric that is filled with these buzzwords affiliated with Islam,” Rahman said. “They’re able to take religious teachings and decontextualize them and interpret them in a way that is inauthentic to provide a theological justification to its recruits, who don’t understand the religion. There is a reason that ISIS recruits individuals that are uneducated about Islam. If they knew something about the religion, there is no way they would join a group like that.”

Rahman said recruiting the disenfranchised is typical behavior for a terrorist organization.

“Even if we draw parallels to individuals in Europe who are being recruited by ISIS, its individuals who usually have criminal backgrounds and don’t have many opportunities to rise up,” Rahman said. “In the Paris attacks and more recently in Brussels, we see types of individuals are those who are disenfranchised.”

Rahman said the recruitment of terrorists by the Islamic State is a lesser threat in the U.S. than it is in Europe, due in part to Muslims being more integrated into society.

“European immigrant communities are incredibly unassimilated from France to Belgium to the United Kingdom,” Rahman said. “They tend to live in enclaves which are basically ghettos or slums. They really don’t allow for opportunities for immigrants to move out of slums. The youth in these communities are really susceptible to being radicalized. “

Rahman said defeating an ideology is very difficult, but she will lay out her thoughts on how both state actors and Muslim Americans can work to counter the Islamic State’s political ideology.

Rahman’s talk is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday, April 10 at First Presbyterian Church, 700 N. Sheridan Road, Lake Forest.


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