“Ten years later we know a lot more about al-Qaida,” visiting lecturer Timothy Passmore said. “The truth is we are greatly safer than we were 10 years ago.”
In his lecture, “The current Position of al-Qaida and U.S. Security,” Passmore addressed how security has changed, and whether it is enough.
Passmore listed several terror attacks that had been stopped since Sept. 11. Yet, he said others have been successful and al-Qaida should still be considered a real threat.
He said the terrorism group has survived because of its structure and the zeal of its leadership.
“[Osama] bin Laden had built a dream ... one that could be preached far and wide,” Passmore said.
However, the lecturer feels that bin Laden’s successor will not be as successful at rallying the group around him.
“The major concern currently is al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula,” Passmore said.
Smaller terrorist groups in this region are connected to al-Qaida. Areas experiencing civil war also present opportunities for these groups.
“The only way to truly prevent terrorism” is to address the underlying cause, according to Passmore.
What causes terrorism is still a debated issue.
Terrorism is a complex issue with varying definitions, said assistant professor of sociology Dr. Arlie Tagayuna in his lecture, “The Uncertain War: Revisiting the Concept of Terrorism.”
“Terrorism is a social construct,” Tagayuna said.
The term has both an historical and social context. However, in more recent years politics, the media and religion have influenced the United States’ view and use of the word, Tagayuna said. Tagayuna said scholars have not developed a good definition for the term.
Since there is a lack of a uniform definition, a person’s definition is developed by their experiences with the word. Tagayuna said some could label acts by the United States “terrorism” based on their definition.
Tagayuna also questioned the term “War on Terror.”
“How can we declare war on an abstract idea?” he asked.
Dr. Richard Jones, professor of anthropology, discussed cultural effects of 9/11 on the Middle East and the United States.
In his lecture, “The Effects of 9/11 on Middle Eastern Societies,” he said people in the United States viewed Arab-Americans as influential and respected before the Sept. 11 attacks. After the attacks, this view largely changed. Arab-Americans were no longer respected, and a negative view became prevalent in society. The view of Americans in the Middle East also became negative, impacted in part by the U.S. response to 9/11. Jones said many in the Middle East do not believe the terrorist attacks were an act of al-Qaida. Instead, they view the attacks as an event engineered by the U.S. government to have an excuse to start a war. Jones said many Americans also have myths they believe about those in Arab countries and the Islamic religion.
“Republic should be what we are talking about in the Middle East, not Democracy,” Jones said.
The United States is a republic not a democracy, he said. Democracy in its most basic form is everyone shouting for their opinion to be heard, he said.
Dr. Tom Pope took a philosophical approach to the issue.
In his lecture “A Theoretical Approach to Solving Religious Violence,” Pope discussed whether principals of the Enlightenment could be applied in the Middle East.
He said many of the principles that developed in the West as a result of the Enlightenment may not be translatable to the Middle East. However, the overriding concept of being open to discussion of competing ideas may be globally appealing. Pope pointed out that the Middle East operates from a different mindset from the West and simply trying to put Western ideas into this paradigm will not be accepted.