Discussing Terrorism, After 9/11

It has been sixteen years since the Twin Towers collapsed, forever changing the physical and emotional landscape of those who call the United States their home, and those worldwide who stand in solidarity. Today, we remember those we’ve lost. But we also consider the changes that 9/11 has brought, such as it’s impact on democracy, and how we can remind future generations of students and people about what this day means.

Since 9/11, how have our discussions about terrorism, whether it be by individuals or groups, changed? And how do we view other people worldwide in light of what has happened since that day?

Below, we’ve included some recommended reading to help share the continuing conversation on terrorism and its impact on our global society. #neverforget #Sept11th #Remember911

The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security before and after 9/11 edited by Sylvester A. Johnson and Steven Weitzman

“Over its 109 years of existence, these historians [of this edited volume] and their colleagues argue, the Bureau has shaped American religious history through targeted investigations and religiously tinged rhetoric about national security.”—The Atlantic

Hear more about timely lessons for the FBI in the age of Trump. And read a sample chapter from the book.

Terror in the Mind of God, Fourth Edition: The Global Rise of Religious Violence by Mark Juergensmeyer. 

“Juergensmeyer’s work is a sensitive, comparative study of terrorist movements and the religious beliefs that motivate them.”—Washington Post

Read an excerpt regarding Burmese Buddhists and the persecution of Rohingya Muslims. And read a sample chapter from the book.

 

Constructions of Terrorism: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Research and Policy edited by Michael Stohl, Richard Burchill, and Scott Howard Englund

“Counter-terrorism would be less counterproductive if policymakers would take heed of their advice.” —Alex P. Schmid, Research Fellow and Director of the Terrorism Research Initiative at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, The Hague

And read the introduction from the book.

 

The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to ISIS, Updated Edition with a New Preface and Final Chapter edited by Gérard Chaliand and Arnaud Blin

“Provides a useful and levelheaded survey of a subject that is regularly misunderstood and often manipulated.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“A recommendable book for sociologists, anthropologists and social scientists who are interested by these types of hot topics.”—International Journal of Human Rights and Constitutional Studies

Read a sample chapter from the book.

Caravan of Martyrs: Sacrifice and Suicide Bombing in Afghanistan by David B. Edwards 

“Such a beautifully written and imaginative work comes along rarely—at once a deeply felt personal memoir about the author’s anthropological encounters with Afghanistan and a highly original theory about suicide bombing as sacrifice.”—Steven C. Caton, Khalid Bin Abdullah Bin Abdulrahman Al Saud Professor of Contemporary Arab Studies, Harvard University

Read a sample chapter from the book.

A Culture of Conspiracy, 2nd Edition: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America by Michael Barkun

“Ideas, even bizarre and marginalized ideas, do have consequences, and we ignore them at our peril. Barkun’s explorations, like the canary in the coal mine, warn us of what may lie ahead.”—Paul Boyer Christian Century

Read an interview with the author. And read an excerpt from the book.

 

The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays by Richard Taruskin

“This is one of the most important books about music you’ll read this year. . . . No one has bridged the gap between music scholarship and mainstream media as virtuosically as Taruskin.”—Tom Service The Guardian

Read a sample chapter from the book.


Recommended Reading for Independence Day

Together with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution is one of America’s most important documents, vital to our political life. While the Declaration, signed 241 years ago today, listed grievances against the king of England and warned of a destructive government, the Constitution was and is the fundamental framework for the United States. Since today is a celebration of our freedom, we draw inspiration from the First Amendment, the most important for maintaining a democratic government.

This selection includes titles that address aspects of these First Amendment protections — as well as the fallout when these freedoms are threatened.

Freedom of Religion

The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security before and after 9/11 Edited by Sylvester A. Johnson & Steven Weitzman

As early as 1917, the FBI began to target religious communities and groups it believed were hotbeds of anti-American politics. Whether these religious communities were pacifist groups that opposed American wars, or religious groups that advocated for white supremacy or direct conflict with the FBI, the Bureau has infiltrated and surveilled religious communities that run the gamut of American religious life. This book tackles questions essential to understanding not only the history of law enforcement and religion, but also the future of religious liberty in America.

Prophets and Patriots: Faith in Democracy across the Political Divide by Ruth Braunstein

In the wake of the Great Recession and amid rising discontent with government responsiveness to ordinary citizens, Prophets and Patriots follows participants in two very different groups—a progressive faith-based community organization and a conservative Tea Party group—as they set out to become active and informed citizens, put their faith into action, and hold government accountable. Both groups viewed themselves as the latest in a long line of prophetic voices and patriotic heroes who were carrying forward the promise of the American democratic project. Yet the ways in which each group put this common vision into practice reflected very different understandings of American democracy and citizenship.

Freedom of Speech and the Press

When Government Speaks: Politics, Law, and Government Expression in America by Mark G. Yudof

Government’s ever-increasing participation in communication processes, Mark Yudof argues, threatens key democratic values that the First Amendment was designed to protect. Government control over the exchange of ideas and information would be inconsistent with citizen autonomy, informed consent, and a balanced and mutually responsive relationship between citizens and their government. Yet the danger of government dominance must be weighed against the necessary role of government in furthering democratic values by disseminating information and educating citizens. Professor Yudof identifies a number of formal and informal checks on government as disseminator, withholder, and controller of ideas and information.

American Carnival: Journalism under Siege in an Age of New Media by Neil Henry

In this vividly written, compelling narrative, award-winning journalist Neil Henry confronts the crisis facing professional journalism in this era of rapid technological transformation. Drawing on significant currents in U.S. media and social history, Henry argues that, given the amount of fraud in many institutions in American life today, the decline of journalistic professionalism sparked by the economic challenge of New Media poses especially serious implications for democracy. As increasingly alarming stories surface about unethical practices, American Carnival makes a stirring case for journalism as a calling that is vital to a free society, a profession that is more necessary than ever in a digital age marked by startling assaults on the cultural primacy of truth.

Right to Assemble and Petition the Government

The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century by Grace Lee Boggs & Scott Kurashige

A vibrant, inspirational force, the late-great Grace Lee Boggs participated in all of the twentieth century’s major social movements — for civil rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights, and more. In this powerful, deeply humanistic book, Boggs shrewdly assesses the political, economical, and environmental crisis right up to 2015, drawing from seven decades of activist experience and a rigorous commitment to critical thinking, to redefine “revolution” for our times. In a world dominated by America and driven by cheap oil, easy credit, and conspicuous consumption, this book is a manifesto for creating alternative modes of work, politics, and human interaction.

The Activist’s Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century by Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw’s hard-hitting guide to winning social change details how activists can best use the Internet and social media, and analyzes the strategic strengths and weaknesses of rising 21st century movements for immigrant rights, marriage equality, and against climate change. Whether it’s by inspiring “fear and loathing” in politicians, building diverse coalitions, using ballot initiatives, or harnessing the media, the courts, and the electoral process towards social change, Shaw—a longtime activist for urban issues—shows that with a plan, positive change can be achieved. The Activist’s Handbook is an indispensable guide not only for activists, but for anyone interested in the future of progressive politics in America.


30 Fantastic Books for the Mother in Your Life — from the Art Lover to the News Junkie

We’ve compiled a list of recommended reads for the mother figure in your life — whether her interests lie in cultural artifacts or the 24-hour news cycle, Hollywood backlot backstories or intriguing historical tales. This list could be for any reader in your life — and that’s fine, too! — but when we typically think of a mother, these words come to mind: creator (and creative), teacher, protector. We think this reading list embodies those traits. Enjoy!

For the Art Lover

Summer of Love: Art, Fashion, and Rock and Roll edited by Jill D’Alessandro and Colleen Terry, with essays by Victoria Binder, Dennis McNally, and Joel Selvin

Slow Art: The Experience of Looking, Sacred Images to James Turrell by Arden Reed

Of Dogs and Other People: The Art of Roy De Forest by Susan Landauer

Ed Ruscha and the Great American West edited by Karin Breuer, with contributions from D.J. Waldie and Ed Ruscha

For the Cinephile

Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los Angeles by Jon Lewis

Lois Weber in Early Hollywood by Shelley Stamp

Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Selected Writings and Interviews, Volume 1 and Volume 2 by Alfred Hitchcock, edited by Sidney Gottlieb

Hellboy’s World: Comics and Monsters on the Margins by Scott Bukatman

For the Music Aficionado

Listening for the Secret: The Grateful Dead and the Politics of Improvisation
by Ulf Olsson, edited by Nicholas Meriwether

Loft Jazz: Improvising New York in the 1970s by Michael C. Heller

Better Git It in Your Soul: An Interpretive Biography of Charles Mingus by Krin Gabbard

Ronnie Gilbert: A Radical Life in Song by Ronnie Gilbert

For the Literary Bookworm

Thoreau and the Language of Trees by Richard Higgins, with a foreword by Robert D. Richardson 

Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro 

Autobiography of Mark Twain: The Complete and Authoritative Edition Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 by Mark Twain

A Poet’s Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov by Donna Hollenberg

For the Wine Connoisseur

French Wine: A History by Rod Phillips

I Taste Red: The Science of Tasting Wine by Jamie Goode

Chianti Classico: The Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine by Bill Nesto and Frances Di Savino

Riesling Rediscovered: Bold, Bright, and Dry by John Winthrop Haeger

For the History Buff

A Half Century of Occupation: Israel, Palestine, and the World’s Most Intractable Conflict by Gershon Shafir

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Pursuit of War Criminals from Nuremberg to the War on Terror by Eric Stover, Victor Peskin, and Alexa Koenig

The Scholar Denied: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology by Aldon Morris

Black Elephants in the Room: The Unexpected Politics of African American Republicans  by Corey D. Fields

How Would You Rule: Legal Puzzles, Brainteasers, and Dilemmas from the Law’s Strangest Cases by Daniel W. Park

For the News Junkie

Borderwall as Architecture: A Manifesto for the U.S.-Mexico Boundary by Ronald Rael

The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security before and after 9/11 by Sylvester A. Johnson and Steven Weitzman

Exceptional America: What Divides Americans from the World and from Each Other by Mugambi Jouet

Reproductive Justice: An Introduction by Loretta Ross and Rickie Solinger

In the Fields of the North / En los campos del norte by David Bacon


Who Was Reinhold Niebuhr? And Why Was He Targeted by the FBI?

The revelation that James Comey has a secret Twitter account led to further examination this week of the name associated with the purported account: Reinhold Niebuhr. Theories abound about why the Director of the FBI would choose this name, drawing attention to the fact that Niebuhr was the topic of Comey’s senior thesis when he was a student at the College of William and Mary. A prominent theologian, Niebuhr influenced public figures ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr. to former presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.

He also had a lengthy file with the FBI.

In The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security Before and After 9/11, contributor Dianne Kirby’s essay “J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI, and the Religious Cold War” looks at why Reinhold Niebuhr was under FBI surveillance, excerpted below:

At the end of the Eisenhower administration Reinhold Niebuhr, America’s leading theologian, declared that the West had been successfully inoculated against communism “by the historical dynamism of the Judeo-Christian tradition.” The religious triumphalism concealed a more complex reality that would become apparent over the course of the 1960s. American policies and practices were coming under increasing scrutiny and criticism, and the depiction of the East-West confrontation as one between good and evil, a crucial element for Hoover’s exercise of power and influence, was becoming less and less tenable. . . . Vietnam caused Niebuhr himself to question whether the two superpowers were radically different and to wonder whether they had each revealed “similar imperialist impulses.”

Niebuhr would go on to become a founding member of Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam (CALCAV) . . . Despite efforts by various intelligence agencies to weaken the peace movement, CALCAV continued to grow. FBI interest in the organization intensified as well . . . surveillance of what were deemed “radical” Christians was intended to intimidate and deter. Those still prepared to adopt the tactics of civil disobedience, break the law, and accept the consequences in order to dramatize and publicize the issues faced the full brunt of the law, including imprisonment. They included the Berrigan brothers, priests Phil and Dan (a cofounder of CALCAV). Along with other Christians involved in their protest, they became fugitives to maximize the political symbolism of their cause. A massive FBI operation was implemented that involved surveilling and searching religious buildings and personnel, but the FBI’s manhunt for the Berrigans ended as a public relations debacle for the bureau . . . The history of CALCAV shows that FBI practices and views did not change in this period, but it also reveals Hoover’s declining ability to control public opinion, along with growing division and discontent within churches regarding their relationship with the state.

Continue reading “Who Was Reinhold Niebuhr? And Why Was He Targeted by the FBI?”


J. Edgar Hoover, Martin Luther King, and Some Timely Lessons for the FBI in the Age of Trump

by Steven Weitzman and Sylvester Johnson, editors of The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security Before and After 9/11

James B. Comey wants you to know FBI and Religionthat the FBI he directs learns from its mistakes.

In 2014, director Comey instituted an effort to do just that, a program meant to help FBI agents and analysts learn from one of the more shameful episodes in FBI history—the effort by former director J. Edgar Hoover to destroy Martin Luther King, Jr. Fueled by Hoover’s suspicion that MLK was a communist, the FBI undertook a scandalous campaign of surveillance and harassment, going so far as to send the civil rights leader an anonymous letter that seems to call on him to kill himself.

Comey’s efforts were born of a resolve not to let this kind of mistake happen again. He has spoken of how he keeps a copy of the memo authorizing the King surveillance on his desk as a reminder of “why it is vital that power. . . be constrained.” The program he initiated is meant to give FBI trainees a chance to reflect on the dangers of corruption and racism. The experience includes watching documentaries, reading about the prejudice MLK faced, and a visit to the MLK memorial in Washington D.C.

As scholars of religion, we’d like to believe that this isn’t mere public relations. As an undergraduate at William and Mary College, Comey majored in Religious Studies, writing a thesis about a theologian committed to social justice, Reinhold Niebuhr. As Arthur Schlesinger once observed, Niebuhr was a critic of national innocence, which he regarded as a self-righteous delusion that Americans used to conceal their crimes from themselves. Comey appeared to take this teaching to heart, distinguishing himself from Hoover by being willing to face up to mistakes and moral blind-spots.

But is Comey himself learning all the lessons there are to learn from Hoover’s treatment of MLK?

In our own research on the FBI and its interaction with different religious communities, we came to realize that it wasn’t only racism that shaped Hoover’s treatment of MLK; religious bias played a role as well. Hoover cast the struggle against communism as a religious struggle, identifying America with Judeo-Christian values and the Soviet Union with a godless secularism bent on the destruction of religion. This Manichean world-view, dividing the world into forces of good and evil, skewed his understanding of people on the religious left. He could not accept that it was sincere belief that may have led leaders on the religious left, leaders like MLK, to oppose war and injustice. In his eyes, such leaders were imposters or dupes, a part of a Communist effort to infiltrate American society under the cover of religion.

Acknowledging the role of religious bias in the FBI’s treatment of MLK is important because of the role that religious bias is now playing in the Federal government’s treatment of a religious minority. Within a week of his inauguration, the Trump administration has prevented Muslim non-citizens from entering the country. Although he refocused his immigration ban on Muslim-majority countries rather than Muslims in general, Trump told Christian Broadcast news that preferential treatment would be given to Christians, making religion a test for how the US would treat refugees from war-torn regions like Syria. The executive order calls to mind the government’s refusal to accept Jewish refugees during World War II on the pretext that some were Nazi spies.

Continue reading “J. Edgar Hoover, Martin Luther King, and Some Timely Lessons for the FBI in the Age of Trump”


A Reading List for the Next Presidential Era

Today we officially enter a new world ripe for change—both good and bad—as well as unprecedented conflict and inequality. Read on to discover some of our new and forthcoming titles that will help you make sense of the next four years.

Exceptional America: What Divides Americans from the World and from Each Other by Mugambi Jouet

Why does a country built on the concept of liberty have 9780520293298the highest incarceration rate in the world? How could the first Western nation to elect a person of color as its leader suffer from institutional racism? How does Christian fundamentalism coexist with gay marriage in the American imagination? In essence, what makes the United States exceptional? In this provocative exploration of American exceptionalism, Mugambi Jouet examines why Americans are far more divided than other Westerners over basic issues—including wealth inequality, health care, climate change, evolution, the literal truth of the Bible, abortion, gay rights, gun control, mass incarceration, and war.

 

Borderwall as Architecture: A Manifesto for the US-Mexico Boundary by Ronald Rael

Borderwall as Architecture is an artistic and intellectual hand 9780520283947-1grenade of a book, and a timely re-examination of what the physical barrier that divides the United States of America from the United Mexican States is and could be. It is both a protest against the wall and a projection about its future. Through a series of propositions suggesting that the nearly seven hundred miles of wall is an opportunity for economic and social development along the border that encourages its conceptual and physical dismantling, the book takes readers on a journey along a wall that cuts through a “third nation”—the Divided States of America.

 

 

La Nueva California: Latinos from Pioneers to Post-Millenials by David Hayes-Bautista

9780520292536Since late 2001 more than fifty percent of the babies born in California have been Latino. When these babies reach adulthood, they will, by sheer force of numbers, influence the course of the Golden State. Spanning one hundred years, this complex, fascinating analysis suggests that the future of Latinos in California will be neither complete assimilation nor unyielding separatism. Instead, the development of a distinctive regional identity will be based on Latino definitions of what it means to be American.

 

 

 

The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security before and after 9/11 edited by Sylvester A. Johnson and Steven Weitzman

9780520287280The Federal Bureau of Investigation has had a long and tortuous relationship with religion over almost the entirety of its existence. The FBI and Religion recounts this fraught and fascinating history, focusing on key moments in the Bureau’s history. Starting from the beginnings of the FBI before World War I, moving through the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War, up to 9/11 and today, this book tackles questions essential to understanding not only the history of law enforcement and religion, but also the future of religious liberty in America.

 

 

Prophets and Patriots: Faith in Democracy Across the Political Divide by Ruth Braunstein

9780520293656In the wake of the Great Recession and rising discontent with government responsiveness to ordinary citizens, participants in two very different groups—a progressive faith-based community organization and a conservative Tea Party group—worked together to become active and informed citizens, put their faith in action, and hold government accountable. Prophets and Patriots offers a fresh look at two active grassroots movements and highlights cultural convergences and contradictions at the heart of American political culture.

 

 

 

How May I Help You? An Immigrant’s Journey from MBA to Minimum Wage by Deepak Singh

9780520293311In this moving and insightful work, Deepak Singh chronicles his downward mobility as an immigrant to a small town in Virginia. Armed with an MBA from India, Singh can get only a minimum-wage job in an electronics store. Every day he confronts unfamiliar American mores, from strange idioms to deeply entrenched racism. How May I Help You? is an incisive take on life in the United States and a reminder that the stories of low-wage employees can bring candor and humanity to debates about work, race, and immigration.


The Future of Religious Minorities in the Era of Trump

by Steven Weitzman and Sylvester Johnson, editors of The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security Before and After 9/11

Some disturbing lessons from the Case Files of the FBI:

On the day he was elected, Donald Trump’s plan to ban all foreign Muslims from entering the United States disappeared from his website, raising the hope that he is quietly walking back one of his most notorious proposals. But American Muslims and others concerned about religious liberty in the US are hardly reassured.

Earlier in the campaign, Trump garnered support by advocating for the surveillance of every American mosque; he approved the idea of additional law enforcement patrols of Muslim neighborhoods, and he called for compiling a national database of Muslims, insisting that they would have to register. He even suggested that it would be legitimate to close certain mosques where “some bad things were happening.” As we write this, American Muslims are reeling from a turn of events that threatens their religious liberty and other rights and even their sense of personal safety.

FBI and Religion

Trump’s statements about Muslims helped to propel him to electoral victory, but they have also greatly alarmed those concerned about civil and religious liberties. They are part of what the ACLU had in mind when it described Trump as a “one-man constitutional crisis,” though legal scholars debate whether a ban on Muslim non-U.S. citizens would actually be unconstitutional.

Our experience in co-editing The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security Before and After 9/11, has taught us that not only is such a surveillance regime conceivable: it also has precedent in American history. Drawing together contributions from more than a dozen scholars, the volume covers the history of the FBI’s interactions with various religious communities—Protestant, Catholics, Jews—and it shows that the Bureau has a long track-record of surveilling, infiltrating, and occasionally harming religious communities and leaders that it deems a threat. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies play a critical role in defending religious communities from hate crimes, but this history suggests that that they too can succumb to suspicion and stereotype, and become forces of persecution in their own right.

The FBI’s treatment of American Muslims is a textbook example. FBI surveillance of Muslims did not begin with 9/11. It did not even begin with the Nation of Islam in the 1950s and ‘60s, an organization the FBI successfully fragmented by creating internal conflicts and stoking violence. We traced the story to the 1940s and the FBI’s treatment of a community known as the Moorish Science Temple of America.

Continue reading “The Future of Religious Minorities in the Era of Trump”