Re: TERRORISM: the grim prospects

From: Amara Graps (
Date: Fri Oct 26 2001 - 18:31:05 MDT

Robert Bradbury:

>If we do not understand the trends and underlying motivations
>that are producing this situation then we will fail to
>adequately prepare for and respond to it.

I agree. However, I think that article portrays an extremely skewed or
wrong set of "facts", and I disagree that the "facts" in the article
are "trends". I question the author's motivations in writing that
article, and I object to the author's inflammatory writing style. I
question the newspaper's integrity for printing that article. I also
am bothered that the article was sent to this list.

You asked some specific questions regarding what I didn't agree about
it. I wish to start with a large picture, and then work to specifics
to answer you. I'll have more specific things to add next week, too,
regarding the "facts" in the article.

I've seen some number of articles pointed to on this list about
extremist Muslims (not always stated that they are "extremist",
however). I'm bothered by the imbalance.

Millions of people in the world are Muslims. Even if one allows that
some of those people entered that religion under societal or family
pressures, I think that one can assume that a majority of those Muslims
entered Islam voluntarily and are gaining some value from their
religion. Therefore, if so many people are finding value and support
and meaning from their religious world, I would like to see a balance
of articles about the positive aspects that their worldview brings to
them. I've not seen those in the articles sent to this list, but only
articles about extremist forms of Islam. Did the newspaper not print
them? If not, then that's an interesting tidbit. Why did it not
consider it "sell-worthy news" to print something about the daily
(boring but positive?) life of a Muslim? Did you not see them?

If I thought that the anthropology article was worthwhile to send to
the list, then I would have spent an equal amount of time to find an
article to see another side, to present another view, especially in
the world situation today. Why? I don't wish to 'feed the monster'.
The 'monster' is what I call the collection of human violence, fears,
anxieties, hatreds, suspicions, that emerged full-force on Sept. 11.
This collection was always present before, but it emerged in a new
form in September and changed the world. I think that humanity is in a
very dangerous position now, and alot of extra care and attention is
needed to diffuse it, to go into it fully open to look at all sides,
and not amplify the fears to a WWIII.

The article was printed in a western newspaper, written by someone who
appears to me to not be Muslim. It seemed to me to not have an Muslim
culture origin, while, at the same time, presenting a view the of the
Muslim culture. That alone alerted me to a large bias. In order to
learn about another culture, one can : read about it from (many)
different sources, and/or talk to people from that other culture,
and/or spend some time living there. I wonder to what extent (if any)
the author of that anthropology article made these efforts. The bias
of the article was so strong, that it struck me like much of the
Soviet propaganda that I read about the U.S. in the 1980s, when I
visited the Baltics for the first time.

In addition to the bias of the article's orgin, I found the article's
tone inflammatory. The author used words like this, while describing
bin Laden's followers: "miserable band of worshippers responsible",
"their often sorry existences", "uniting the energies of political
ardour and sex in a turbulent fuel", (which I think only incites the
reader.. and this is a 'scientific analysis'?), and then the author
smoothly moves to describing the rest of the Muslim culture: "their
comfort in an all-male world begins with the high sex segregation of
many of the Muslim communities from which the terrorists draw". Here,
the author stepped over the line, in my opinion. "High sex segregation"
in "many of the Muslim ommunities from which the terrorists draw" is
not true, yet it's used as the scientific basis to present the
author's 'scientific' anthropological explanation.

I think that the U.S. needs to respond strongly to the Sept 11 events,
and I feel a lot of sorrow for the victims of that violence and
resulting anxieties and fear. However, I hope that humans will evolve
above that 'monster' and learn some important things. Personally, I'm
interested in learning the truth about about bin Laden's motivations,
about the different government's foreign policies these last few
decades, and about the Muslim culture. And I know well that the truth
is not something that we can find out by direct means- it will require
a large effort to be aware of and understand the different

I saw a kind of analogy to the 'different perspectives reguired' this
evening, while travelling home from Noordwijk, Netherlands. My travel
home was a 7 hour train ride, in which the interior of one of my
trains was built with plastic smokey-gray partitions and shelves,
which transmitted and reflected the late evening light through the
windows in an interesting way. Even though the train seats in front of
me blocked my view of the passengers, I could see diffused images of
the train passengers reflected and transmitted all the way up the
train aisle. In other words, I could see images of different views of
each of the passengers while looking up at the overhead smokey-gray
luggage shelves, while looking along the aisle at the vertical
partitions, and while looking at a glancing angle at the windows. For
me, learning the 'truth' in our current world situation is a little like
combining the layered, diffuse, complex, reflected, and transmitted
images of the train passengers to derive a full picture.


P.S. I'm in the middle of some conversations with my next-door
neighbor, who comes from an Egyptian Muslim world. It's one data point
only, but I trust this data point alot more than that anthropology
newspaper article. I'll have some more things to say about the
article next week.

Amara Graps, PhD email:
Computational Physics vita:
Multiplex Answers URL:
"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." --Anais Nin

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