Prof. Jeff Kenney leads lecture on ISIS’s past and future


DePauw Professor of Religious Studies Jeff Kenney
explains the connection betwen ISIS and al-Queda.
The lecture was live streamed online to over 70 viewers.

Despite arctic temperatures outside, Professor Jeff Kenney delved into the hot issue of ISIS on Tuesday evening inside the Watson Forum during his presentation “ISIS and the Pathology of Middle East Politics.”

Kenney is a professor of religious studies at DePauw whose focus the past few years has been on Islam. Kenney explained the issues surrounding ISIS, and its rise from a scholarly perspective.

“Most people writing about ISIS have been dealing with international policy and politics,” Kenney’s focus strayed from this traditional rhetoric.

He gave an extensive history of similar movements that lead up to ISIS’s creation. One major figure according to Kenney was Hassan Al-Banna, an egyptian citizen who helped to found the Muslim Brotherhood in the late 1920s. Kenney pointed to Al-Banna as one of the first to think that Islam could be used in politics. “He was painting Islam into a modern nation state,” said Kenney.

Kenney delved into more recent history citing the rise of a Shiite government in Iraq as a factor in Sunni backed ISIS’s rise. “Essentially Shia are empowered at the expense of Sunni,” said Kenney as he attempted to wade through the sectarian nature of Iraq and the Middle East.

In addition to connecting the dots to how ISIS came into being, Kenney gave the group a hopeless prognosis.

“ISIS is a pseudo state with a not very long life in front of it,” said Kenney.

Although Kenney may have not have believed ISIS would survive much longer he predicted its effects would out live its life, maps would have to be redrawn. He theorizes that Iraq and Syria will be sliced into four regions based on religion and ethnicity: Shiite, Sunni, Kurds and Alawites.

“Its going to be very difficult to put these countries back together. At this point in time it looks impossible,” said Kenney.

Though attendance at the lecture was in the single digits, the presentation was seen by many more. As a part of the Virtual Alumni College, Kenney’s lecture was streamed via the internet to over 70 online viewers. All viewers virtual and in person were able to ask Kenney questions as the event came to a close.

One of the three students in attendance, sophomore Allison Schultz who has taken classes with Kenney before, enjoyed the lecture.

“He went into a lot more depth about ISIS’s origins instead of the politics,” said Schultz.

Professor Emeritus of Religious studies, Bernard Batto, despite his background in the field found Kenney’s lecture to be enlightening.

“Most of us have no idea the fact that what happened in Egypt in 1925 is very much at the base of what is happening right now with ISIS,” Batto said.

Kenney regularly teaches classes about Islam such as “Classical Islam” and “Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”