Professor discusses connection between terrorism and religion

A lecture entitled “Religion and Terrorism” by Dr. Margaret Gonzalez–Perez was the latest installment of the history department’s Then and Now lecture series.  The lecture, while focused on Islam and its relationship with terrorism, touched on a wide variety of topics, including liberation theology, the different “names” of Islam, disputed issues within Jihadism and the decentralization of Islam plus the problems caused by its decentralization.

Perez wasted little time delving into the subject of liberation theology.

“Liberation theology is kind of an off-shoot of Catholicism,” said Gonzalez-Perez. “What happened was that, from 1962 to ’65, the Vatican held an international conference called the Second Ecumenical Council. What they were trying to do was revitalize the Catholic Church and make it more appealing to people in developing nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America.”

Gonzalez-Perez went on to say that some scholars did not accept the purpose of the Second Ecumenical Council and thought that Christianity was more closely linked to Socialism than it was to traditional political views found in Christian areas.

“They said Christianity was more of a political movement,” said Gonzalez-Perez. “They described Christ not so much as a religious figure, but as a political rebel. They interpreted that he was an insurgent, and they said crucifixion was a punishment for political rebels, not for religious heretics.”

After discussing liberation theology, Gonzalez-Perez touched on the radicalization of Islam, bringing up three key points: Ibn Taymiyyah, Wahhabism and Islam in the 20th century.  She then dove into the different types of Islam, including Fundamentalist Islam, Political Islam, Radical Islam and Jihadism, with Jihadism being the most closely linked to terrorism, according to Gonzalez-Perez. During her discussion of Jihadism, Gonzalez-Perez pointed out its differences with traditional Islam.

“Another issue is the idea of civilians as targets,” said Gonzalez-Perez. “That’s what terrorism is. It’s attacking civilians. If you’re attacking military, police or a prime minister, forces of the government, that’s guerrilla warfare. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it’s a different thing. If you’re attacking these people, then you’re attacking civilian targets. The Quran prohibits targeting civilians.”

Gonzalez-Perez also spoke about the decentralization of Islam and how it affects the religion. She said that several scholars, including Sheikh Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti of the University of Oxford in Oxford, United Kingdom, Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayyid Tantawy of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt and the Islamic Commission of Spain were all respected scholars of Islam that agree that mainstream Islam does not support terrorism.

Senior history major J.P. Bezou thought highly of the lecture, praising Gonzalez-Perez’s objectivity towards the subject.

“I thought it was really informative,” said Bezou. “It’s a lot of information on a very controversial subject. She did a good job making it presentable and easy to understand. She also offered a very neutral standpoint, it wasn’t slanted in any way.”

The Then and Now lecture series will continue on Oct. 26 with Dr. Joseph Burn’s lecture “Parental Guidance Suggested: Rock and the PMRC.” Burns will discuss the history of the “Parental Advisory” sticker that appeared on records in 1985 in Pottle Auditorium at 1 p.m.

More information on upcoming Fanfare events can be found on the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts website.