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NEWPORT, R.I. - The Naval War College (NWC) faculty gained an Islam and al-Qaida specialist who will serve as a fellow of the Minerva program on July 25.

Professor Nahed Zehr joins the Minerva program, a social science research initiative launched by the secretary of defense in 2008.

The Minerva program focuses on areas of strategic importance to U.S. national security policy. The goal of the program is to improve the basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape world regions of strategic importance to the U.S.

Beginning in 2010, the federal government allocated funds for academic research on globalism and national security. The Minerva program offers research fellowships, given to institutions to hire scholars like Zehr.

"The fellowships are granted as a way to generate more academic research on national security, broadly speaking," said Zehr.

She will begin researching Islam and al-Qaida for the Minerva program and teaching classes in November.

Teaching students about Islam's influence in the Muslim world coincides with her Minerva research because "al-Qaida's understanding of the Islamic tradition is a very specific interpretation of Islam. It affects the way that it views and understands contemporary problems within the Muslim world," Zehr said.

Her research is specifically on the ethics of war in both the Western "just war" and jihad traditions. She focuses on the nature and structure of al-Qaida, and the American military response in the War on Terror.

"Al-Qaida is an organization that is very difficult to define," said Zehr. "Any sort of military response or military framework to al-Qaida has to be constructed in light of its nature."

Zehr received her master's degree from Iowa State University and her doctorate in religious ethics from Florida State University. Before coming to NWC, she taught at the University of Iowa, Florida State University, and Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

From NWC Public Affairs