The complexities of Islam

  • Mohamed Defaa came to the Jaffrey Public Library on Thursday for a talk about the complexities of Middle East. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, April 25, 2017 7:52AM

When it comes to wide-ranging topics like Islam and the Middle East, Mohamed Defaa said people need to educate themselves better to understand the complexities. 

Defaa – who was born in Morocco and moved to the United States 18 years ago – delivered a multimedia presentation to about 30 people at the Jaffrey Public Library, a presentation that spoke about the changing geopolitical concept of the Middle East.

“I had to reject everything at some point and educate myself from scratch,” said Defaa. “Confusing these terms brings a lot of misunderstanding and judgment.”

The presentation was a part of the Jaffrey Public Library’s Reading Without Walls program and was funded by a grant from NH Humanities. Library Director Julie Perrin said during the event that the program was designed to challenge those in the community to try new things. 

During his discussion, Defaa spoke about the complexities of the Middle East, Islam, Arabs, religion and politics, the Islamic State, and other topics.

When looking at the Middle East, Defaa said that the region of the world is much more diverse than many think. When reading a book at an airport, Defaa said he was once approached by a woman who after finding out that he was from the Middle East, proclaimed her love of tabbouleh and hummus, two items not traditionally found in his home country. 

Culturally speaking, Defaa said there are numerous differences throughout the Middle East, with differences sometimes boiling down to a microcosmic level. For example, Defaa said that while there are four major branches of Islam, there are many offshoots within each branch – each having its own school of thought and slight variances. 

“There is a lot of division within the religion,” said Defaa. “There are four large schools of interpretation within the Sunnis alone. All of these entities have different perspectives.”

Defaa also spoke about the difference between Islam as a religion and Islamism as a movement, which uses the religion to push a political agenda. 

Defaa – a French and Arabic teacher at Merrimack High School and an Arabic instructor at Southern New Hampshire University –is certified by the International Center for Educational and Cultural Consulting in Lyon, France and holds an MA in Communication and Expression, which he earned at University Mohamed V in Rabat, Morocco, as well as a BA in French Language and Literature from the Ibn Tofail University in Kénitra, Morocco.

Defaa has also taught in Casablanca, Morocco, where he was an assistant professor of Communication and Cultural Expression at the University Hassan the Second.

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.