First Dixie Forum explores perceptions of Islam, jihad

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Suicide bombing, divine contracts with God and promises of 72 virgins were all topics of discussion during the first Dixie Forum of the semester. 

Shadman Bashir, a visiting professor of law and international relations, lectured for an hour and answered questions about holy war, perceptions of Islam, and the meaning of jihad.

Bashir studied law in Pakistan where he grew up before moving to the United States in 2001. Living in post-9/11 U.S., Bashir said he experienced racism and profiling, like always being the “random guy” stopped at airport security, but those negative experiences fueled his passion for learning.

“You name it and it happened to me,” Bashir said. “That increased my interest. Anytime anything negative happened, I would study more.” 

Now he uses his knowledge of law and war along with his personal experiences to share his unique perspective with others.

Bashir said it is important for students to be grateful for their opportunities here and to strive to understand the world around them.

“People in other parts of the world would do everything; I mean literally parents would give up their lives to send their children to school in the U.S.,” Bashir said. “Also, if you can … at least once go to a poor country and see it yourself— how other people live in other parts of the world. Then you’ll be able to get away from this us-and-them syndrome.” 

Bashir distinguished holy wars from other conflicts by explaining how they are started under religious pretenses. He said divine law is believed to be communicated from a god to men on earth, who follow those laws so they can receive a reward in the afterlife. Bashir said these holy wars are easy to start but difficult to finish because generations are growing up in the middle of these conflicts. Young people are conditioned to perpetuate these wars by seeing the violence around them and through indoctrination into violent beliefs, Bashir said.

Because these “holy warriors” won’t know until they’re dead if their god is pleased with their actions, there is no way to know if their war is won or lost, Bashir said.

“Victory in holy war? There is no victory,” Bashir said. “How do you finish a war that is decided in heaven?” 

Brian Rammell, a sophomore physics from Cedar City, said he appreciated Bashir’s firsthand accounts of war and explanation of how a young suicide bomber might feel.

Bashir will present the screenings of the film, “Manislam: Islam and Masculinity,” during DOCUTAH on Sept. 9 and 12.