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Lecture Jan. 21 Explores Debate among Muslims over Islamic State Group

Posted on January 11, 2016 in: Events, Faculty & Staff, Faith, Lectures, religious studies, Spotlight
Professor John Kelsay. (Photo courtesy Florida State University)

Professor John Kelsay. (Photo courtesy Florida State University)

SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga University will present a lecture by Florida State University Professor John Kelsay titled, “The Debate over the Islamic State Group: Muslim Perspectives on Religion and Politics” at 5 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 21 in the Jepson Center’s Wolff Auditorium. The event, which is free and open to the public, is intended for a general audience.

Gonzaga’s Public Humanities Taskforce, the College of Arts and Sciences and the religious studies department are sponsoring the event. Kelsay, the distinguished research professor at FSU’s religion department, will discuss the phenomenon of the Islamic State and Muslim scholarly and popular responses to it. Kelsay is a specialist on the just war tradition within Islam (a doctrine to guide when war is ethically justified) and, more generally, the role of religion in politics.

“When leaders of the Islamic State group announced the selection of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as caliph in June 2014, they set off a debate about the history and contemporary significance of a number of traditional political concepts, including khilafat (caliphate), jihad (here, in the sense of armed struggle), and hijra (migration),” Kelsay noted.

The lecture will describe features of this debate and will compare the Islamic State movement with other Islamist militant organizations, like al-Qaida. Importantly, Kelsay will highlight key criticisms of the Islamic State’s approach by Muslim scholars and others. He will also discuss how this intra-Muslim debate matters for U.S. foreign policy.

For more information please contact Shannon Dunn, Gonzaga assistant professor of religious studies, at (509) 313-3625 or via email at

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