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Expert to Speak On ISIS, Religious Challenges To Secular State

Published: February 17, 2015

Mark Juergensmeyer, professor of sociology and global studies, and affiliate professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), will visit CSULB on Thursday, Feb. 26, to give a talk, “Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State.” Open to the public, the talk begins at 12:30 p.m. in the Anatol Center and will cover the wide range of extremist movements in all religions up to and including ISIS.

Juergensmeyer’s visit will also include a faculty panel moderated by associate professor of Religious Studies Sophia Pandya from 2:30-3:15 p.m. and a student panel from 3:30-5 p.m. The faculty panel will include Africana Studies’ Maulana Karenga, Political Sciences’ Larry George and Pandya.

“While religion can be a force for peace, unfortunately it also has fueled conflicts locally and globally,” said Pandya. “For example, 2014 has witnessed the worsening of the Syrian civil war and the resulting formation of the brutal movement known as the Islamic State (IS). These events alone—which are both directly tied to religion—have reshaped the geopolitical situation in the region. Too many people dismiss terrorism as ‘incomprehensible.’ Dr. Juergensmeyer’s work sheds light on religiously fueled violence, helping us to understand what motivates extremists to spill blood in the name of God.”

The director of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at UCSB, Juergensmeyer is a pioneer in the field of global studies and writes on global religion, religious violence, conflict resolution, South Asian religion and politics. He has published more than 300 articles and 20 books—many of which treat confrontations between new religious movements and the “secular,” “modern,” West—including the recent Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State. His best-selling book, Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, explains the roots of religiously fueled violence, which is used in many courses at CSULB. That book is based on interviews with religious activists around the world—including individuals convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, leaders of Hamas and abortion clinic bombers in the United States—and was listed by the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times as one of the best nonfiction books of the year.

“The defense of religion provides a cover for violence,” wrote Juergensmeyer in one of his recent online posts. “It gives moral license to something horrible that the perpetrators may have longed to do, to show the world how powerful they and their community really could be, and to demonstrate their importance in one terminal moment of violent glory. Religion doesn’t cause the violence, it is the excuse for it.”

Juergensmeyer’s edited books include Rethinking Secularism with Craig Calhoun and Jonathan VanAntwerpen; Religion in Global Civil Society; The Oxford Handbook of Global Religions, The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence with Michael Jerryson and Margo Kitts; and the Princeton Reader on Religion and Violence, co-edited with Kitts. He has co-edited The Encyclopedia of Global Religions with Wade Clark Roof and The Encyclopedia of Global Studies with Helmut Anheier and Victor Faessel. In 2006 he presented the Stafford Little Lectures at Princeton University, which will be published as a book, God at War by Princeton University Press. A textbook, Thinking Globally was published in 2014.

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Mark Juergensmeyer

Juergensmeyer was elected President of the American Academy of Religion, and chaired the working group on Religion, Secularism, and International Affairs for the Social Science Research Council in New York City. He has received research fellowships from the Wilson Center in Washington D.C., the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the U.S. Institute of Peace and the American Council of Learned Societies. He is the 2003 recipient of the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for contributions to the study of religion and is the 2004 recipient of the Silver Award of the Queen Sofia Center for the Study of Violence in Spain.

Since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, he has been a frequent commentator in the news media, including CNN, NBC, CBS, BBC, NPR, Fox News, ABC’s Politically Incorrect and CNBC’s Dennis Miller Show.

In addition to religious studies, campus sponsors of this event include the College of Liberal Arts; Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies; Africana Studies; the Middle Eastern Studies Program; and the Religious Studies Student Society.

For more information, contact Pandya by e-mail at or call 562/985-7982

–Shayne Schroeder