James L. Rowell, an assistant professor of religion at Flager College, published a book late last year called Gandhi and bin Laden: Religion at the Extremes:

Rowell says there are few historical or religious figures who seem more contradictory than Mohandas Ghandi [sic.] and Osama bin Laden, and that is the premise of the book. Ghandi believed religion’s highest ideals called for a path of absolute nonviolence, while bin Laden has continued to advocate violence.

“I had a great love of Ghandi, nonviolence and his idea, especially of inclusive, tolerant religion—that there was a universal sort of calling to all faiths,” he said.

Rowell completed his work in 2002, just as the world was coming to terms with 9/11. It occurred to Rowell that bin Laden was using his own brand of religious extremism as a justification for violence. So Rowell became fascinated by these two extremes—Ghandi and bin Laden—and began studying bin Laden in order to understand how two individuals who were both claiming to be religious leaders could be at such extremes.

“It’s very important that we try to recapture non-violence,” he said.

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