Panel Addresses Islam, Terrorism

About 60 people gathered yesterday in Straus Common Room for a panel discussion entitled “International Terrorism and Islam.”

The talk was one of a series presented by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs Student Council and co-sponsored by the Woodbridge Speaker series.

The panel consisted of four speakers, Weatherhead Professor Samuel P. Huntington, Professor of the Practice of Religion in Society Bryan J. Hehir, Professor of the History of Religion William A. Graham Jr. and Sohail H. Hashmi ’84, assistant professor of international relations at Mount Holyoke College.

Each speaker addressed the audience for about 15 minutes. The talks were followed by a question and answer session.

All the panelists discussed possible reasons behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, while being careful to say these reasons were not justifications for the actions.

Huntington, who has published a number of books on the subject, questioned whether we were witnessing a “clash of civilizations.”

Although he said we were not, at least “not yet,” he pointed to the “resurgence of Muslim conscience and identity” and the “shift in demographics” towards a younger, and therefore more politically involved, population as possible reasons.

Hehir, a Catholic priest, pointed to the “volatile mix” that religion and politics make, while saying that “separation [of the two] is an inadequate response.”

Graham and Hashmi both pointed to the traditions of Islam which have lead to the religion being used as a justification for the attack.

Hashmi’s long speech on the history of Islam received praise from members of the Harvard community.

“Hashmi was very eloquent, very impressive,” said Caifang Zhu, a Divinity School student. “It was very informative coming from different angles and different perspectives.”

Some audience members, however, said the panelists ignored important aspects of the issue.

Although David B. Adelman ’04 said the panel was “very intellectually stimulating,” he said he also thought it did not portray a balanced view.

“It very one-sided towards the Muslim line of thought,” Adelman said, “a more narrow world view than I would have expected from the distinguished panelists.”

Panel organizer Leonid V. Peisakhin ’03 said he was happy with how the event went.

“There was good attendance considering that we have had about 40 similar events in the past week and that we’re competing with Al Gore,” Peisakhin said.