Author visits UNO, creates discussion on Islam and violence

April 15, 2019

In the past few decades years, Islam has been portrayed as a religion that predisposes its believers to violence. This image has been fueled by use of the terms ‘islamic’ terrorism and others similar to it that encourage the general public to view Islam as a violent religion. Recently, a new movement called ‘New Atheism’ has taken those beliefs to an extreme by asserting that true Muslims are the terrorists that have perverted Islam.  

Dr. Mohammed Khalil is an author, adjunct law professor and director of the Muslim Studies Program at Michigan who wrote the book Jihad, Radicalism, and the New Atheism. He recently came to the University of Nebraska Omaha to hold a lecture about this movement and why, in his opinion, they were wrong.  

In his lecture he brought up the works of self-proclaimed New Atheist, Sam Harris such as his book The End of Faith and Islam and the Future of Tolerance. Dr. Khalil examined Harris’ bold statements and those of like-minded people who believed that the actions of terrorist groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda were only following the words of the Koran. Khalil explained that those people were selectively using parts of the Koran without context to support their beliefs.  

Harris, one of the most notable New Atheists, used Osama bin Laden as evidence for his claims. Bin Laden had used verses in the Koran to justify his terrorism. Dr. Khalil revealed that when these verses were read with context it does not actually support bin Laden at all, in fact, the Koran condemns the killing of any nonbelievers. Another main topic of discussion during the lecture was misconceptions around the word ‘jihad’ and its violent connotations in the media.  

After Dr. Khalil spoke, attendees of the lecture were asked to get into small groups and discuss questions about the topics that were brought up. Then, they had the opportunity to share their thoughts with the bigger group and ask Dr. Khalil any questions that they might have had. 

The lively discussions that started because of this talk are important first steps to reducing the ignorance that has become common surrounding Islam. 

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