September 05, 2014 - 4:17 PM
KAMLOOPS – Since news that a former TRU student left for Syria to join former a terrorist group, one local professor is doing what he can to ensure others don't follow him.
In his open forum Thursday afternoon at TRU, Derek Cook, a political science professor, encouraged open dialogue to learn more about Middle Eastern politics and the ongoing conflict in Syria, which he calls "a war of ideas." He helped to shed some light on the activities of the terrorist organization ISIS in the Middle East and emphasized his worry over the surge of western youth who have decided to join groups like theirs.
Collin Gordon, who studied business at TRU and played on the Wolfpack volleyball team joined ISIS in late 2012. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham group has been linked to various bombings and killings in Syria and Iraq.
While Cook said it’s unlikely Gordon will come back, his concern is for the impressionable young men who could choose a path similar to Gordon's.
“That person is lost to us,” he said. “I’m worried about those who haven’t gone yet.”
Cook said the propaganda behind ISIS is calculated and wondered aloud why recruitment sites for the group are still up and running online or why social media sites like Twitter haven’t put a stop to profiles of group members.
Since news broke of Gordon’s involvement, Diana Skoglund with TRU's media relations department said she's been getting calls on Gordon from several news outlets, including CNN.
Journalists have attempted to reach out to Gordon directly via his Twitter page. Gordon has offered short responses, almost all of which include reference to his Islamic faith. He has not confirmed to media if he is part of the group.
Cook said it’s unlikely Gordon is operating his social media pages.
“If he’s actually in ISIS, then the chances of someone acting for him are very great,” said Cook.
Forum attendees varied from university professors, to students including international students, the general public and several media outlets in the city. With around 40 people in attendance, dialogue veered from social media to the history of war in the middle east, to soldier psychology and the impact of religion.
One man in the crowd argued the violence of ISIS attributes to religious influence.
“They just do what their book (the Qur'an) tells them to do,” he said, but was quickly countered by Cook and Iranian student Pooyan Sijani who told the audience the religion of Islam condemns violence.
“(They act) not in the name of God, but in the name of politics,” said Cook.
Sijani said it troubled him to see the misunderstanding people have between Middle Eastern religion and politics.
“I realized some people have a wrong concept about Islam (in relation to ISIS),” he said adding ISIS beliefs are political.
“It’s definitely not a religious thing,” he said. “It’s a sort of ideology and belief.”
Sijani, who hails from Iran, studies sociology and politics. He attended the meeting to get a better sense of the Canadian understanding of the conflict abroad as he's noticed many TRU students don't take much of an interest in discussing the ongoing conflicts of the Arab Spring.
“When I’m talking to Canadians they (don’t) really seem interested in politics,” he said.
To combat misinformation Sijani and Cook both encouraged more open discussion on the topic.
“Educating people is the most important thing,” said Sijani.
To contact a reporter for this story, email email@example.com, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-2724.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014