‘Pizza and Politics’ series begins with discussion about Islam

Diplomat-in-residence Michael McClellan and Soleiman Kiasatpour, associate professor of political science, lead a discussion with students and other faculty about Islam. Luke Franke/HERALD

Leah Brown and Trey Crumbie

A room of students and faculty had an open discussion about Islam and politics Monday.

The discussion was a part of a series called “Pizza and Politics” hosted by the political science department, which will be ongoing throughout the semester.

Diplomat-In-Residence Michael McClellan and Soleiman Kiasatpour, associate professor of political science, led the discussion.

There are more than 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide which is about 25 percent of the world’s population, Kiasatpour said. 

Kiasatpour also stated that there are many manifestations of Islam, which can lead to misconceptions, such as people believing that all Muslims hold the same beliefs. 

“There is no one Islam out there,” he said. “There are multiple Islams.” 

McClellan said extremists from multiple religions have used their religion to justify violence several times in history.

“The inquisition in western Europe lasted almost 500 years,” McClellean said. 

McClellan said there are two forms of jihad, an Islamic term referring to struggle, external and internal. Internal jihad refers to becoming a better Muslim, while external jihad refers to a war against outsiders to advance the cause or defend Islam.

McClellan said Christianity had jihads of their own.

“The Crusades are a perfect example,” he said. “What a lot of people don’t realize is that when The Crusades happened, it was not so much against Muslims as it was against other Christians.”

McClellan said the non-Muslim world cannot change ideology of Muslim extremists who commit violent acts. Their actions can only be altered by other Muslims.

“There needs to be a real debate within Islam,” he said.

The topic expanded to whether or not the United States should get involved in Middle Eastern countries.

McClellan said it would take multiple generations to rebuild the nations if that was the goal.

“You can’t do that stuff in a short amount of time,” McClellan said. 

Louisville junior Demarcus Brooks, an international affairs major, said he didn’t really learn anything new, but was glad the conversation was held. 

“I think it was good to get everybody together and talk about this topic,” he said.