By Will Garner
On Oct. 6, students crowded into Wold House for a discussion on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, commonly known as ISIS. Professors Feffer, Lobe and Motahar led the discussion.
The event began with each professor weighing in on what ISIS is and why the group exists.
After decades of imperialism and economic manipulation by mostly Western powers, many citizens of the region comprising Syria and Iraq, most of whom are Muslim, are angry.
ISIS has drawn on this anger, recruiting young people to use violence to conquer land in the hopes of forming a caliphate — a Muslim state.
After outlining this issue, the professors opened the floor to questions and comments.
One student accused the professors of siding with ISIS, but the professors responded that although they did not agree with the militant group’s agenda, they also wanted to portray ISIS members as human beings.
They stressed that in this conflict, no party is entirely good or evil.
The professors pointed out that on the side of the United States, the CIA had initially ignored ISIS, underestimating the intelligence of its leaders and giving inaccurate numbers of its total forces.
Now ISIS has become a formidable threat, spreading the message that it is all around us, because many of its members have come from regions outside of the Middle East, such as Europe and the Americas. These fighters are typically well educated and some are fluent in English.
Another audience member suggested that United Nations troops should be deployed to communities threatened by ISIS to build roads, schools and hospitals. In this way, impoverished citizens would be less likely to support ISIS in the hopes that a new Islamic State might mean better living conditions.
The professors pointed out that while that might work as a long-term solution, that strategy would not stop the ongoing atrocities being committed by ISIS.
They acknowledged that there is no clear solution to this conflict, but they suggested that the United States should look to the Kurds as allies.
However, the professors added that working with the Kurds would go against the interests of Turkey, an already important U.S. ally.
It is apparent that the actions of ISIS cause ripples outside the Middle East, affecting larger economic and political interests.
With the Wold great room filled to capacity, there were plenty perspectives from which to learn.
Attendees came away from the discussion with a desire to learn more, asking the professors how they could stay informed. When asked how to stay informed, Professor Feffer advised that one should read the latest news articles, from a variety of perspectives, so as not to get a one-sided view.
Some specific publications he recommended were The New York Times, The Guardian, and Al Jazeera.
The professor pointed out that knowing how to read a language other than English means a person could also obtain information from foreign news sources in addition to American news sources.
This event aimed to make clear that the topic of ISIS is one that demands the attention of the Union community.