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Dr. Resat Kasaba

Professor of International Studies, University of Washington: Jackson School of International Studies

On November 13, Dr. Resat Kasaba, author, professor and co-founder of the new University of Washington Center on Ethnic Conflict and Conflict Resolution, provided a thoughtful analysis of the September 11th attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center to PNNL staff. Kasaba's speech was the third of a four-part series, sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Center for Global Security, examining circumstances contributing to the attacks.

Kasaba began his presentation by expressing a desire to see Americans turn the negative events of September 11th into something positive "through informing ourselves." In reference to the title of his lecture, Do They Really Hate Us?, Kasaba answered, "If somebody forced me to give an answer to this question, I would say… maybe…(but) all this talk of hating is somewhat disturbing," he added. He then voiced a preference for focusing on the questions of who "they" and "us" are, stating that the two have been treated as if they were "distinctly different and identifiable."

"I will start with the 'us' part of the inquiry and ask the existential question of who 'us' is supposed to be, " said Kasaba. He reminded his audience that the victims of the September 11th attack were from numerous nations, and were varied in race, religion and economic status. Kasaba called the victims representative of "a true crossroads of American society… a truly modern society, full of people who cross boundaries and borders every day." He concluded, "Those who hate 'us' must hate modern society," adding that the attackers had "demonstrated this with deeds and words."

Examining who "they" is, Kasaba stated that the attacks should not be attributed to "evil, or any general group," but that it should be recognized that a specific ideologically motivated group with an extremely narrow interpretation of Islam, which is not compatible with the modern world, used force to make the world conform to its own ideal of what it should be.

Kasaba stated that other groups with similar, conservative views have arisen and will continue to rise throughout history. "What is troubling," he said, "is that the appeal of bin Laden is attractive to many who are ready to blame much on an unknown, outside enemy."

Kasaba remarked on the spread of wealth during recent decades, pointing out that of the 2.8 billion people in the world living on less than $2 a day, 1 billion are Muslim (although Muslim entrepreneurs in places like Turkey, Malaysia, and Indonesia are greatly benefiting from globalization). These individuals are more informed than equivalent socio-economic groups of the past and can see that there is a better life but cannot reach it. The resulting frustration makes politicized Islam "very volatile" and anti-Western sentiment is often permitted, or even encouraged by leaders, who take advantage of the opportunity to deflect blame for their country' woes from themselves. "In another context bin Laden would be less alluring… What we have seen is (the manifestation of) a feeling of despair which will only likely rise in the future."

Kasaba suggested that greater adaptation to the new world is necessary on the part of all nations. "As a superpower and perhaps the only superpower, the United States has certain responsibilities to regions in which is heavily engaged… and needs to explain what it is doing (in these countries)," he said. He explained that the United States government should communicate its interests in the Middle East and Gulf region, and avoid alienating people through the use of double standards, outright injustices and shifting alliances. Kasaba stated that the United States should preserve the very openness that enables it to "take advantage of what is best in the world." He also suggested, "Wealthy states will have to reach out to the sea of poverty… and all nations should strive for a 'global civil society.'"

Expressing that he believes improved communication, greater honesty and increased openness hold much potential in helping nations to achieve a global civil society, Kasaba ended his presentation with a passage on tolerance and intolerance from Isaiah Berlin: "There are many ways of living, believing, behaving, and the mere knowledge provided by history, anthropology, literature, art and law makes it very clear that the differences between cultures and characters are as deep as the similarities, and that we are none the poorer for this rich variety. Knowledge of it opens the windows of the soul and makes people wiser, nicer and more civilized. Absence of it breeds irrational prejudices and hatreds, and ghastly extermination of heretics and those that are different."

Center for Global Security

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