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A panel of six international students provided their insights during “International Perspectives on the War Against Terrorism” at noon today in Interfaith Chapel, Hogg Hall.

The forum was the final program in the original five-part Campus Conversations series, which has addressed issues related to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.

More Campus Conversations are being planned. According to College Chaplain Gary Miller, an open forum on racial profiling will be held noon-1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, in Interfaith Chapel. Another will be held the following week on the issue of civil rights. Free lunch will be provided.

At today’s forum, Irshad Haji ’02 (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) introduced the large audience to speakers Nurjahan Noaz ’03 (Ocean, N.J.), Edward Asiedu ’03 (Accra North, Ghana), Johannes van Gorp ’04 (Hong Kong), Farahleena Laiwalla ’04 (Karachi, Pakistan), Tarik Ghanim ’03 (Amman, Jordan), and Metin Aslantas ’03 (Istanbul, Turkey).

Aslantas said that he was encouraged by the high turnout at the event. “It’s important for us to understand that our opinions are valued,” he said.

Aslantas noted that Turkey has battled terrorism for three decades, losing approximately 35,000 citizens to attacks from 17 different terrorist groups. Given his experience, he said that he was not surprised by the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 attacks. The conversation has been dominated by the need to bring suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden to justice, he said, but “there is one more thing we are failing to do.” The goal of ending terrorism requires discovering what motivates terrorists to commit these acts against the U.S. and why they hate this country, he said.

Two major American ideals that the terrorists despise are its wealth and the values of equality and tolerance, said Aslantas. While the attackers targeted a stronghold of wealth in the World Trade Center, the economy will rebound, he said. What they really may have impacted are equality and tolerance, said Aslantas, referring to attacks in the U.S. on minorities. Minorities bearing any resemblance to the suspected terrorists have been denied boarding on planes, he said, noting that this also has occurred in Turkey and other countries in the past. It is important to communicate the importance of maintaining the ideals of America to its citizens, he explained.

“What we need to do is tell them that we believe in these [principles], because that’s what we’re fighting for,” said Aslantas.

He also encouraged members of the audience to continue with their normal lives, including taking trips on airliners. “The day you get scared is the day terrorism has won,” he said.

Laiwalla explained that Pakistanis are unhappy that the country’s leaders are helping the U.S. attack their traditional ally, Afghanistan, noting that the two countries were once part of the same kingdom and have shared free borders.

On the positive side for Pakistan, the need for its cooperation is leading to a lifting of the economic sanctions imposed on it for developing and testing nuclear weapons, as well as increased foreign aid and interest in helping resolve its dispute with India over the region of Kashmir.

Citizens of Pakistan also are concerned about the civilian casualties that may result if the U.S. bombs Afghanistan. “A lot of people are angry at what happened (on Sept. 11) and are looking for one generalized group of people to blame,” she said. Other concerns include possible upheaval from the Afghan refugees in Pakistan and the withdrawal of companies from the country.

“We have agreed to help the U.S. and are doing that,” Laiwalla said, “but we hope nothing bad comes of it and a war gets started.”

Van Gorp, who is of Dutch origin, gave a perspective on reactions in Holland and Europe, including Dutch media coverage of the attacks and their aftermath. The attacks led many to fear that a world war would result, he said. “As soon as it happened, we all feared that there would be a rash attack (by the U.S.), which fortunately didn’t happen,” he said.

The Dutch leaders, people, and media offered condolences after the attacks, which killed some Dutch citizens, said van Gorp. Bin Laden emerged as a suspect, but the Dutch believe that they have a right to see evidence before supporting military action. And while Western European leaders reportedly are unanimous in supporting military strikes against the suspected terrorists, the Green Party and others in Holland are opposed.

Asiedu questioned whether the U.S. can wage war against terrorism across the globe, noting that terrorist groups operate in many countries: “We need to ask ourselves, are we going to bomb Spain? Are we going to bomb Colombia?Is that going to guarantee a brighter future the next day?”

The Irish Republication Army has used major financial support from Irish people in the U.S. to commit terrorist acts in Britain, said Asiedu. “Are we going to freeze the accounts of 40 million Irish? Are they all involved? Of course not.”

Asiedu also cautioned against supporting the Northern Alliance forces in Afghanistan that are trying to unseat the Taliban rulers. “We are repeating the mistakes of the past,” he said. The U.S. has supported others who went on to become major enemies, including bin Laden when he was part of the resistance to Soviet domination of Afghanistan and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during his country’s war with Iran. “These people are going to find a reason at one point to bite the hand that fed [them],” said Asiedu. “These kind of ‘one-night stands’ are not going to help us.”

Ghanim said it is important not to focus solely on striking back at the terrorists, but to also examine why the attacks occurred. He said that he is glad that the U.S. has taken time to examine the situation and should study it further. Double standards against Arabs and Muslims and associating them all with terrorism have created bitter feelings, he added.

“We still need to take a step back and think about eliminating the causes (of these feelings) along with bin Laden,” said Ghanim.

Noaz noted that her father is from Bangladesh and her mother is an American. Patriotism runs high in the family, with a grandfather who fought in World War II and an uncle who served in the Vietnam War. She expressed concern about family members being detained unnecessarily at airports, but also said her mother recalled being frisked and body-searched in Arab countries.

Noaz told the story of the Egyptian-born owner of a New Jersey gas station who has been in the U.S. for more than 20 years, but was wrongfully identified in a newspaper article as having ties to bin Laden. He has seen 75 percent of his business erode after the attacks due to prejudice. She also mentioned Yale history professor Paul Kennedy’s efforts to have students imagine what they would feel if their positions were reversed with those of the citizens of Arab countries, including the Palestinians who cheered the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I want to ask Americans to be more sensitive about the international community,” said Fayola Bostic ’05 during a time for audience questions and comments. She noted that some U.S. citizens express shock at the Sept. 11 attacks, yet the U.S. devastated the small country of Grenada with bombings.

Jonathan Schecter ’04 said people have to realize that the struggle is against a specific group of terrorists, not an entire culture or country. “When we vilify all Muslims, Afghanis, and Arabs, we’re no better than the terrorists,” he said.

James P. Lusardi, professor emeritus of English, noted that the international student speakers shared a common theme of being gripped by forces being their control, asking what recourse is available. Aslantas replied that Turkey is grounded in its membership with NATO and the fact that it is the only predominantly Muslim country with a secular government.

The Campus Conversations series is sponsored by the offices of the college chaplain, dean of students, dean of studies, and intercultural development; the Lafayette Activities Forum; the International Students Association; Student Government; and members of the faculty.

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