ISIS is not a Muslim group, but rather a political terrorist group.
That was one of the key points raised at a forum on ISIS held Oct. 2 in the La-Z-Boy Center.
"Islam means peace. A vast religion that teaches peace between the Muslims and non-Muslims," said Dr. Ali Awadi, one of the panelists.
Awadi is a professor at Henry Ford Community College and lends a unique perspective as an immigrant from Iraq.
Awadi also noted that ISIS is an extremist group.
"Extremism and radicalism – and honestly I believe that’s what ISIS really is," he said.
"It’s a political agenda that they have, to conquer and kill, and they recruit using the Islamic name, or the Islamic faith."
Awadi pointed out that there are rabbis who encourage their followers to eliminate all other religions from Jerusalem by any means necessary. One example he used was a young man who was killed in Gaza by the Israeli police.
Awadi also mentioned such extremist Christian groups as the Crusaders, the KKK, and the Radical Traditional Catholics.
"How many here have heard of the Radical Traditional Catholics?" he asked.
No one raised a hand.
"They’re pretty extreme. They basically follow the crusaders in killing everyone, including other Christians that are not Catholics."
He followed this with his belief that none of these groups are really religious.
"One thing to consider, and I don’t know who’s religious and who’s not, but anyone that believes in God, and believes in the love of God, should not believe in killing humans, or other people. They’re liars, okay? Those two contradict one another."
"ISIS is an insult to Islam. It was never a part of Islam, like I said earlier, it was used as a political strategy, and Islam was a blanket that gave them the ability to recruit people," he said, a quiver in his voice betraying the emotion that was hid behind an otherwise passive face.
Awadi said that his goal was to give a brief understanding of Islam to those in attendance.
"Islam is a monotheistic religion, an Abrahamic religion. When you’re dealing with Islam, it’s very similar to Christianity and Judaism. They’re both monotheistic."
He said that Islamic beliefs are centered on their holy book, the Qur’an, and the teachings of Muhammad.
One thing he said that most people don’t realize is that Muslims do believe in Jesus, they just don’t believe he was the son of God. Much like Judaism, Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet.
He made it a point to stress that Islam is not a violent religion.
He said that Muslims fear retaliation toward their faith in places like Dearborn, a Detoroit suburb with a high concentrationof Muslims.
"Many Muslims here are in fear not just of ISIS, but of people attacking them. And we have a lot of recruiters that are recruiting non-Muslims and a lot of people don’t understand that," he said.
Awadi also claimed that some radicals fear the Muslims will force their beliefs, such as Sharia Law, on the rest of America.
"I don’t know if you’re familiar with Sharia Law, but in Islam you cannot have Sharia Law, it is forbidden in our religion, unless 98 percent are Muslim, and it’s voted upon by the Muslim population. So whoever tells you that Sharia Law is going to exist or exists in Dearborn or Michigan, it’s a lie. It’s a complete lie."
"What fuels hatred and ignorance? You’ve got politicians and lawmakers and individuals that believe that all Muslims should not be trusted," he said.
He also listed religious leaders trying to preach Sharia Law in America, and religious leaders burning copies of the Qur’an to spark controversy to draw attention to their church.
"They will automatically assume that Arabs, or Muslims and even Christian Arabs are targeted, and they think they’re belonging to a terrorist organization."
Amadi said ISIS has caused terror throughout the Middle East and Africa.
"Its recent advancements in Iraq and Syria have begun to get it attention from global communities and world leaders," he said.
"Its methods of conquering and brutally killing any and all in their way is horrifying to civil society, to say the least."
He went on to say that Americans have begun to take notice of ISIS’ methods of recruiting "the not so obvious terrorists."
"And what we mean by ‘not so obvious’ is it’s not your average Arab, or Muslim or Afghani terrorist, Afghanistinian or Pakistanian. They’re recruiting African-American, they’re recruiting Caucasian-American terrorists in the United States," he said.
"As Americans who have not previously converted to Islam are now considering converting to Islam, ISIS’s goal is to seize the new converts and educate them in their ideology."
Another common fear Awadi addressed was that ISIS might infiltrate America. To help illustrate this, he projected a series of pictures.
"See the pictures I left up there? How many of them are Arabic? Any of them Arabic? How many of them originally Muslims? Those people are not Arabic or Muslim, they converted, they were tricked. So, really, we have to be vigilant that ISIS can infiltrate anybody in their own ways."
According to Awadi, one of the ways ISIS is spreading its propaganda and recruiting new members is through the use of "slick videos" on social media.
Also speaking were Dr. Joanna Sabo, a professor of political science at MCCC, and Sherryl Edwards, a professor at the University of Michigan, Dearborn.
Edwards discussed how ISIS gets its funding.
"They steal museum artifacts from Iraq and sell ‘em on the black market for huge amounts of money, and of course oil, they’re taking over oil fields in Iraq," she said.
She added that because this is in Northern Iraq, there aren’t as many oil fields for ISIS to take over as in the south. She further claimed that ISIS is probably the wealthiest terror organization seen to date.
"What they do is sell the crude oil for cash, they get the refined oil back, and they actually sell it to some of the people that they’re killing," she said.