Free public forum: is Islam being hijacked?

Tuesday, 21 October 2003

The pressing topic of religion and violence will be the subject of a free public forum to be held at the University of Adelaide tomorrow night (Wednesday).

Violence and Religion: Is Islam Being Hijacked? is being presented by two staff from the University of Adelaide's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr Arthur Saniotis (Department of Anthropology) and Dr Brian Victoria (Department of Asian Studies).

"We were motivated to put this forum on to emphasise how violence is intrinsically tied to religion, and the terrible consequences of this," Dr Saniotis says. "It is not sufficient to disassociate the role of religion from violent acts, as individuals and groups are distorting religious symbols and texts to legitimise their own agendas. The present day Islamic terrorist groups are an obvious case in point."

Dr Saniotis, a Lecturer at the Department of Anthropology, is an anthropologist with extensive experience in Islam and Muslim cultures, having conducted fieldwork in North India and being closely associated with Muslim and Middle-Eastern cultures over many years.

He will use his presentation to look at how Islamic terrorists constitute and enact terrorism in relation to Jihad (or holy war), and how it is important to examine the symbolic dimension of Islamic terrorists in order to attain a better understanding of their enmity for the West and their desire for martyrdom.

"While such religions as Islam, Christianity and Buddhism routinely endorse peace, certain aspects of their doctrines have also been used to justify violence," Dr Victoria says. "Our forum will explore why this is so, and what the reasons are for religion's endorsement of violence."

Dr Victoria is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Asian Studies whose research interests include religious violence and the concept of holy war. In 1997 he published a landmark book Zen At War that examined how the Japanese school of Zen Buddhism had served as a key religious underpinning of that nation's militarism in World War Two.

In his presentation at the forum, Dr Victoria will identify and examine the universal characteristics of religion-supported violence and reveal how and why they have been part of religious practice in the past as well as the present.

Violence and Religion: Is Islam Being Hijacked? will be held tomorrow night (Wednesday), at 7.10pm in the Napier Lecture Theatre 102, First Floor, Napier Building, University of Adelaide's North Terrace campus. Media and the public are welcome to attend.


Contact Details

Dr Arthur Saniotis
Business: +61 8 8313 5764

Dr Brian Victoria
Business: +61 8 8363 0990

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762