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.


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”