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Headshot courtesy of Peter Krause; Photo courtesy of Tumblr

Peter Krause on Recent Minnesota Stabbing, ISIS, and Islam

NECN’s "The Take," MSNBC’s "Live with Tamron Hall," and WGBH’s "Greater Boston" featured Peter Krause, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Boston College, on Sept. 19 to discuss the bombings by alleged ISIS member Ahman Khan Ramadi. During the interviews, Krause stressed the importance of having an objective and analytical perspective on recent incidents, especially considering the lack of details.

Later, The Gavel sat down with Krause to discuss the Minnesota stabbing, ISIS, and his ideology on Islam.

When a man claimed to be “a soldier of the Islamic state” after stabbing 9 shoppers in a mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota, he reaffirmed many Americans’ fears of not only the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), but also of Islam itself. Incidents like this have adversely affected the image of Muslim communities, blurring the lines between religion and terrorism.

Peter Krause, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Boston College and Research Affiliate with the MIT Security Studies Program.

Photo courtesy of Peter Krause; Assistant Professor of Political Science at Boston College and Research Affiliate with the MIT Security Studies Program.

Of course, to study Islam objectively, one must differentiate it from terrorist groups like ISIS. In the interview with The Gavel, Krause said, “the rise of ISIS is due to a dangerous cocktail of factors in the Middle East,” including the U.S. invasion of Iraq, ethnic tensions throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, and Sunni-Sufi conflicts.

Krause further stressed that “the vast majority of Muslims reject ISIS” and its deadly measures. ISIS is a Salafi-Jihadi group, meaning that its constituents believe that Islam should be practiced as it was in the 7th century (Salafi) when Islam was conceived, and that using violence as a means of conversion is acceptable (Jihadi). Believing that Shia Muslims (and dissenting Sunnis) are impure, members of ISIS persecute them in an effort to “purge” Islam.

“However, many [ISIS members] utilize this extreme religious ideology as a tool to seize power, prosecute long-standing ethnic feuds, or make personal material gains,” noted Krause.

Past dictators have abused extreme ideologies as means of attaining power and glory. Krause affirms ISIS works in the same way. Thus, blindly connecting the religion of Islam to the behaviors of a few power-hungry individuals would simply be inaccurate.

Additionally, while it has been confirmed that the Minnesota attacker was indeed part of a Jihadi group, the FBI was not able to discern whether it was ISIS or not. Even though “ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks”, Krause explained on The Take, “they have the lowest bar of any Jihadi group.” In our interview, he said that “because their capability in the U.S. is significantly lower than in the Middle East and Europe, they largely have to rely on lone wolf attacks as opposed to carrying out operations with trained fighters.”

Krause believes that it is too early to analyze the Minnesota attacks, especially considering that there is more evidence regarding the attacker to be uncovered. Nevertheless, what is certain is that the attacker was a Jihadi, which is a very small minority in the scope of the Muslim community.

“I hope my classes and research will show people that the best way to understand and address the challenges posed by ISIS is to analyze them head on, without fear or bias, in an engaging environment that combines the serious analysis of ideas with the use of effective research methods,” remarks Krause. “The problems of the world are ever-changing and require a rigorous analytical mind that can adapt.”

At BC, Professor Krause teaches “Terrorism and Political Violence,” “International Relations of the Middle East,” and “Intro to International Studies” each year. He has done extensive field work in the Middle East. His upcoming co-edited volume, The Power to Hurt: Coercion in Theory and Practice, is based on his research on the effectiveness of terrorism. He has also written several articles on war ideas and political violence in the Middle East.

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