The 3rd Global Conference on World’s Religions after September 11
September 15, 2016
Panel Discussion: Fanaticism: Cause & Cure
Panel Chair, Daniel Cere
Dr. Amir Hussain is Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he teaches courses on world religions. His own particular speciality is the study of Islam, focusing on contemporary Muslim societies in North America. From 2011 to 2015, Amir was the editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, the premier scholarly journal for the study of religion. In 2008, he was appointed a fellow of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities.
Dr. Hussain comments on the negative portrayal of Islam in the media pointing out that Islamic terrorists often show little religious knowledge, evidence of religious practice, or connection with a religious community; they rather tend to be alienated individuals frustrated by socio-political upheavals. He maintains that the Muslim religion needs to be presented more accurately in the media, that is, as a normal religion.
Susannah Heschel is the Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College. She is also the daughter of the late Abraham Joshua Heschel, deemed one of the 20th-century’s most important Jewish thinkers. Her scholarship focuses on German-Jewish thought, with particular attention to Jewish-Christian and Jewish-Islamic relations as expressed in historical scholarship. Her publications, many of which are award winning, focus on the above-mentioned areas of expertise and Jewish-feminist issues. Heschel has served on the academic advisory Committee of the Research Center of the US Holocaust Museum since 1999.
Her publications include Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus (University of Chicago Press), which won a National Jewish Book Award, and The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (Princeton University Press). She has been a visiting professor at the Universities of Frankfurt, Edinburgh, and Cape Town, and is the recipient of four honorary doctorates. A Guggenheim Fellow, she is completing a book on the history of Jewish scholarship on Islam.
Professor Hershell argues that true religion is an antidote to fanaticism because the mercy and compassion are its greatest characteristics. She suggests that fanaticism is a result of a falling off from religious fervour and also a complacency among liberal thinkers. There is a need to remember the covenant of peace and compassion, citing Isaiah: Even in anger we must have mercy.
As the former Director of Chaplaincy Service at McGill University from 2006-12, Manjit Singh has worked with several chaplains of varying religions and faiths. He also has numerous years of experience providing spiritual and personal guidance to students and coworkers.
In addition to his time at the Chaplaincy Service, Mr. Singh has published many articles on Sikhism and developed Intro to Sikhism for McGill’s Faculty of Religious Studies, which he taught from 2002-12. Mr. Singh has been a Sikh Chaplain since 1999.
Fanaticism and fundamentalism are caused by complex interplay of socio-political conditions of persecution, injustice and tyranny. Fundamentalism not confined to religious groups, it can be found in secular organisations as well. Mr. Singh cites injustices towards religious groups due to secular policies. Sikhs have been attacked because they were equated with the Taliban and Osama Ben Laden. Sikhs have for a long time shared territory with Hinduss Muslims and Buddhists in a spirit of religious pluralism. Fundamentalism among Sikhs did not arise until the 1980s when there was a breakdown in the social contract between the Sikhs and the Indian state.