A representative from an organization whose mission is stated as cultivating a better understanding of the difference between mainstream and radical Islam lectured on campus Wednesday to a couple dozen students and faculty, some of whom challenged her assertions.
Dr. Hedieh Mirahmadi, president of the World Organization for Resource Development and Education (WORDE) and general secretary of the Islamic Supreme Council of America, spent over an hour discussing her definition of radical Islam and her understanding of its prevalence in American society.
“Islam radicalism is a process by which a person adopts a divine religion that demonizes the other and leads that person to believe that only violence can correct their perceived grievances,” Mirahmadi said.
There are about 1,897 mosques in the United States as of 2010, according to a study conducted by the University of Kentucky.
Mirahmadi said she studied 200 U.S. mosques, chosen by random sampling, and concluded that 15 to 20 percent of Muslim Americans were exposed to radical Islamic ideology. From this, she said one percent of the world’s Muslim population was exposed to the radical ideology.
When asked by an audience member where she found her statistical data, Mirahmadi said there was no empirical data to prove her information on a global scale.
She added that Muslim schools, communities and mosques within the U.S. were the foundations of creating violent thoughts and attitudes toward the public, and the topic of discussing radicalized Islamic was taboo in most Muslim communities.
According to a 2007 Pew Research report, more than half of all Muslims in the U.S. were concerned with Islamic extremism, and 49 percent of Muslims said mosques should keep out of political matters.
Part of the lecture veered off of radicalized Islam and into U.S. foreign policy in Muslim-dominant countries. Mirahmadi said the governments in Iraq and Afghanistan invited the U.S.-led wars in their countries.
“There were pieces of the government that wanted American troops in the country,” Mirahmadi said. “It is our responsibility to not allow a single person to take violence into their own hands as a way of solving conflict.”
The political science department sponsored Wednesday’s event, held in the USU’s Plaza del Sol Northridge Center.
“The political science department sponsors any event that we think is going to promote dialogue within the communities and the academic institution,” said Kassem Nabulsi, political science professor who teaches courses about government policies in the Middle East.
The discussion became heated at times, with the Muslim Student Association challenging Mirahmadi.
“Politics is about conflict, it’s inevitable, everybody is going to have different interpretations and points of views,” Nabulsi said. “We want to bridge the different point of views so we minimize the conflict from spilling over to becoming violent.”
Pierce College student Evan Burke, 19, was in the audience.
“I agree with Dr. Mirahmadi that education with Muslim and non-Muslim communities will help prevent radicals by bringing in intellectual and educated religious leaders to expose both radical and moderate sides and know where they stand,” he said.
In response to Mirahmadi’s statements about radical Muslims, some members of the Muslim Student Association disagreed with her approach.
“I respect that she has different ideas, but she wasn’t even answering the questions she was asked because she didn’t know how to answer,” said Amira Montheshum, a CSUN Muslim Student Association member.
Mirahmadi, a Los Angeles native, said she was raised in a non-religious family and found herself in an Islamic network during college. She said she was the victim of aggression, and this is why she has become an expert on radical Muslims.
“It seems like I talk about radicalization, Muslims hate me,” Mirahmadi said. “I say Islam is a good religion, non-Muslims hate me. This is not about making friends.”