Speakers highlight conflict with ISIS, Islam’s portrayal in the media

Michael Stathis (left), a professor of Political Science at SUU, speaks on the history of ISIS while Ingela Rundquist (center) and Madelyn Crookston look on at the lecture at SUU, Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 28, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah University students and community members gathered in the Sterling R. Church Auditorium Tuesday night for a discussion titled “ISIS and the Media’s Portrayal of the Islamic Religion” hosted by the Southern Utah Democrats.

Two speakers were featured at the event: Michael Stathis, a professor of political science at SUU, and Madelyn Crookston, a Muslim-American convert from Parowan.

Michael Stathis (left), a professor of Political Science at SUU, speaks on the roll of the United States in the ISIS conflict at discussion at SUU on Oct. 28, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News
Michael Stathis (left), a professor of Political Science at SUU, speaks on the role of the United States in the ISIS conflict at discussion at SUU, Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 28, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

Stathis kicked off the discussion by speaking on the history of ISIS, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and Islamic State, and how the group differs from others in the past.

“The rise of ISIS, for most people, came out of nowhere,” Stathis said. “No one saw it coming. Abu Bakr (al-Baghdadi) … was a totally unknown person.”

Whatever people may call it — whether it is ISIS, ISIL or the Islamic State — the intent of the group is something the United States has not seen in basic terrorist groups before, Stathis said. Unlike other terrorist groups whose main concern has been to export terrorism around the world, ISIS’ main goal is to carve out territory.

The brutality the world has witnessed at the hands of ISIS is unlike anything seen in modern times, Stathis said. There are rumors that al-Baghdadi’s break away from al-Qaeda was because he did not feel the group was brutal enough, which can be hard to imagine.

The main question many Americans raise is, “what should the United States do about the situation?” Stathis said. The United States has made many poor decisions regarding the Middle East since World War II and some people suggest that the rise of ISIS is due to the fall-out from the war in Iraq.

That is partially true, Stathis said, but it is also from the civil war in Syria, as well as a number of other things.

The United States has caused so much upheaval and discontent in the area that it is difficult for us to really do much that can be seen by others as positive, Stathis said.

“Given the track record, the United States might be better off being given a temporary time-out in the Middle East,” Stathis said. “That might be better for everyone concerned.”

While Stathis said it is not really feasible for the United States to completely withdraw support from the ISIS conflict, he said it would not be a bad idea to do a little less.

“This is a Middle Eastern problem,” Stathis said. “The primary players here should be people in this area.”

Following a question from an audience member, Stathis also spoke about the connections between ISIS and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The recent crisis involving al-Baghdadi, Syria and Iraq has taken so much attention away from the Arab-Israeli conflict, Stathis said. This is a great tragedy, because the conflict plays a vital role in the goings on for the entire Middle East.

The Arab-Israeli conflict is the key to stability in the entire region,” Stathis said. “Until it is solved — beginning with the creation of an independent Palestine — we are going to see crisis time-after-time.”

In his closing speech, Stathis said for the audience to not mistake his remarks as him underestimating al-Baghdadi or the conflict with ISIS. Rather that the United States should carefully consider what they are doing beforehand.

Following Stathis remarks, Crookston took to the stage and spoke about her “spiritual journey” to Islam.

Having grown up in a primarily LDS environment, Crookston said she did not fully agree with the concept of going to hell for simply following the wrong religion. It was after studying multiple different religions that she discovered the Muslim religion allows all those of a good heart and intentions into heaven.

Madelyn Crookston, a Muslim-American convert from Parowan, speaks about Islam's portrayal in the media while Ingela Rundquist, executive council member for the Southern Utah Democrats, looks on. Oct. 28, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News
Madelyn Crookston, a Muslim-American convert from Parowan, speaks about Islam’s portrayal in the media while Ingela Rundquist, executive council member for the Southern Utah Democrats, looks on, Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 28, 2014 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

She came to this realization, she said, after reading a passage in the Qur’an in Surah 2:62. Accepting this meant she had finally found a religion where she would not need to worry about the people she loved following her to heaven.

Not everyone sees Islam in the same positive light that she does, Crookston said. The mainstream media in the United States often portrays the religion in a negative light, causing those who intake the media to view it the same way.

An example of how the media portrays Islam is through using the Arabic word for God instead of just saying “God,” even though they are translated to mean the same thing, Crookston said. When a person hears the Arabic word over the television, it will usually show an extremist shouting the name or show it in a negative way.

“They say, ‘Allah’ because it seems foreign and … scary and different,” Crookston said.

The reasoning for this, Crookston said, is because Islamophobia sells. It is a multi-billion dollar industry that news agencies, talk-show hosts and authors all profit from. When people accept these Islamophobic stances, they are validating what the Muslim extremists do and only assist their agenda.

Separating Islam from the rest of the world in these ways can create an us versus them mentality, Crookston said. The media has created a mindset that Muslims cannot be good Americans.

Another misconception about Muslims — both American and not — is that they are all al-Qaeda sympathizers, Crookston said. This is completely untrue, she said, and that she does not understand how people can group one-quarter of the worlds population under a single banner.

We hate al-Qaeda … because we are getting blamed for their actions and living with the consequences that they are not,” Crookston said.

This hate for Muslims is one that can be found everywhere, even in Cedar City, Crookston said. In 2013, somebody threw a brick through a mosque window located at 59 N. 100 W. in Cedar City. The police did not call this act a hate crime and it was not featured in any media source.

In the end, Crookston said it is her hope that Americans stop painting Muslims with such a broad brush.

“I’m just as Muslim as someone born in Saudi Arabia and I love funeral potatoes and green Jell-O,” Crookston said.

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Email: dchavez@stgnews.com

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20 Comments

  • Bender October 29, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    I’ll get the straight scoop from Fox News, thank you any way Mr pointy headed perfesser.

  • S Steed October 29, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Not a chance of us backing off with Isis. This whole thing is a theatrical production to get what the establishment tried to get a year ago: War in Syria. I don’t know what the objective is but we supplied the weapons, and our allies in the middle east are funding them; and a whole lot of money is being made in the process. Made by some of the biggest lobbying companies in the country: companies like Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. The threat of Isis to America is about as real as WMDs in Iraq or the homegrown terrorists that the FBI set up so they could get on the news and say “look how we saved you”. Just another prime example of history repeating it’s self. Always be afraid, and fight with your neighbors, that is all we need from you.

  • el jefe October 29, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Mr. Chavez,
    This is about the 4th. article that I have read written by since you came on board with STGNews. Sadly, it is also the 4th. time I have read your articles with a very commonly misspelled word. That one word being “roll” when it should be spelled “role”. Unless you are referring to the edible buttermilk, or Kaiser onion roll, then you should really consider using spellcheck when writing your reports.

    • Bender October 29, 2014 at 10:05 pm

      “Roll” spell checks as valid, oh great el jefe. Our writer needs an editor but in the new Wild West of web journalism the editing step is often brief or non-existent.

    • PROTECT THE SHEEP October 29, 2014 at 10:18 pm

      You’re like the Hitler of spell check Nazis. LOL’d!!!

  • Beverly and Bob Sands October 29, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    check out: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=881491725194515

  • PROTECT THE SHEEP October 29, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    As theatrical and as much of a money making scheme as it is, I can tell you that Muslims actually really do hate white people and would kill us all, given the chance. Allah promised them a hoard of virgins, and they believe that as much as mormons believe Joseph Smith found magic rocks that translated magic plates. Pure nuttiness…

    • Dana October 30, 2014 at 6:06 am

      It is not a hate of whites. It’s a hate of non-Muslims and non compliant Muslims.
      RE: Stathis statements “The rise of ISIS, for most people, came out of nowhere,” Stathis said. “No one saw it coming. ” and “The brutality the world has witnessed at the hands of ISIS is unlike anything seen in modern times, Stathis said. ” —I call Bull hash on that. Sharia law is the norm for these terrorists. Their brutality is a part of Sharia law. Israel saw it coming and has been warning the world for years. YEARS! Yet, what does Bush do? Tells us Islam is a religion of ‘peace.” What does Obama do? Goes around the world bowing to dictators and setting terrorists free.
      Crookston, all you did was trade one misogynist, homophobic cult for another. You need help.

      • Koolaid October 30, 2014 at 9:00 am

        There are more Muslims in the US than Mormons. There are more Muslims in the US Military serving their country and defending the Constitution than there are Mormons. So you can get off of your anti-Muslim rants, because you appear to be clueless on US Citizens who are of the Muslim faith being involved with supporting their communities and country. Look around you. Do you make the same broad sweep on US Citizens with a Mexican heritage, claiming they are all a bunch of illegals and druggies?

        • Old Man October 30, 2014 at 10:49 am

          Same to ya, you can get off of your anti-Mormon rants.
          Show your proof of your claim. Come on Big Shot Put up or Shut the —- up!!

          • Bender October 30, 2014 at 3:42 pm

            OLD MAN, are you the old guy with the beet red complexion that sits on the third row in Sacrament Meeting? You have the huge throbbing blue vein on your left temple. Is that you?

          • Chris October 30, 2014 at 5:27 pm

            Not only are there more Muslims in the US than Mormons, they have been here much longer.

  • greg October 30, 2014 at 12:55 am

    “the Muslim religion allows all those of a good heart and intentions into heaven.”

    This is the same with all religions. It all depends on your definition of good heart and intentions.

    Can an atheist who rejects Allah have a good heart and intentions? How about a polytheist?

    You might want to check with your local ulema on this.

  • sleepy hallow October 30, 2014 at 10:06 am

    ALL muslims who adhere to the Koran, also adhere to Sharia law. How many of you above commenters who support the muslims, would agree to live under Sharia law? Would you allow your women to be treated the way the Koran advocates? Would YOU treat your woman that way? If you have no problem with the tenets of the Koran, maybe you should just go and live amongst ISIS and see how it goes for you. Yeah….a religion of peace. Like a piece of your body such as your head being removed. Only good ISIS…. is a dead ISIS!!!

    • Koolaid October 30, 2014 at 11:17 am

      Read what the BOM and what it has to say about blacks and other religions. There you go. That’s what those mormons really think about non-whites and non-mormons.

      • Old Man October 30, 2014 at 2:49 pm

        you can get off of your anti-Mormon rants.
        Show your proof of your claim. Come on Big Shot Put up or Shut the —- up!!

        • Bender October 30, 2014 at 3:38 pm

          OLD MAN, you appear to be commenting in both a drunk and angry state of mind. You best be chillin out.

          • KOOLAID October 30, 2014 at 4:46 pm

            Stay worthy my friend.

  • Jon October 30, 2014 at 10:44 am

    It is rather sad how the internet has enabled a horde of rednecks to pollute cyber space with their degenerate outlook. Here are some key points of clarification for the sheep:
    1) The Sharia (translation: law) has been codified and modified since the 6th century. It is technically a living document; however, much like the constitution there are ‘purists,’ and there are those who seek to reinterpret the laws in light of today. While one core aspect of Sharia (law) is substantiation via the Qur’an, often one finds that the substantiation varies on interpretation.

    2) Muslims hate white folk. You xenophobic neanderthal’s need to take some time and visit some of the 1.5 billion Muslims living in a variety of countries to note that a large amount of them happen to be ‘white,’ just not ‘anglo.’ Racism does exist in a variety of cultures that adhere to Islam; however, the religion itself attempted to pacify this by giving voice to the likes of founders like Bilal (who was black).

    I’d go on but I’d be wasting digital ink.

  • David Olds October 30, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    The Muslim convert is naive to the extreme.
    The news media is Liberal and only puts Islam in a bad light when there is no alternative.
    I tend to agree that we stay out of the Middle East but it’s hard to watch innocent people killed and displaced when there is something we can do to help.
    Islam is fast becoming a threat to civilization. How we stop it, nobody knows, but stop it we must. we could stop bringing muslim immigrants to the U.S. but we won’t.

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