Rashid to explore violence in human nature, religion



Religious violence is not abnormal.

At least, that’s how Hussein Rashid, founder of islamicate, L3C, sees it.

“Humans are inherently violent, and we create these systems to control how we use violence,” Rashid said. “It used to be religion, and then we come to the idea of the nation-state, and the nation-state starts to control how we use violence. And then we start getting very concerned when other people … use violence in ways that we don’t understand.”

Rashid will discuss these connections between the concepts of violence, religion and the nation-state at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy. His lecture is titled “Enlightenment Progress? Religion, the Nation-State, and Violence.”

“The revolutionary idea is not the enlightenment. It is not the nation-state,” he said. “The revolutionary idea is the idea that we should try to do away with violence full stop. So it’s not about looking at which violence is more acceptable or which violence is right — or even being remotely accepted. That is not acceptable, and we need to move away from it.”

islamicate, L3C is a consultancy firm that works with media producers and organizations, nonprofit organizations and cultural institutions to promote religious literacy and cultural competency. Currently, the firm is working with the Children’s Museum of Manhattan to create an exhibit about Muslim culture around the world that shows the diversity within Islam without portraying religion as a determining factor in all aspects of life.

Though Rashid does not see violence as a consequence of religious belief, he said increased knowledge of others’ traditions could help to reduce violence in general.

“I’m a firm believer that the more you know about someone, the less likely you are, generally speaking, to want to hurt them,” he said. “The more we know in general, whether it’s about people’s religion, or about their culture, or about their politics, the more we’re able to understand them and the more we’re able to make bridges and connections.”

In addition to this knowledge, Rashid said that religious understanding requires the acknowledgment of religiosity, which he views as deeply entrenched despite Pew Surveys that tally “none” as the fastest-growing religious affiliation in the United States.

He said religion and politics are thought of as taboo to bring up in polite conversation, but they’re two topics that play large roles in people’s lives.

“People are more religious, I think, than we give them credit for, but we don’t have the language for it,” Rashid said. “So of all the industrialized nations, we’re the ones with the highest rates of religious observance, but we have the weakest vocabulary to talk about religion. And that, of course, is going to cause a problem.”

Rashid said this lack must be rectified before productive conversations can be held.

“We can’t walk around in a fog of ignorance,” he said.