Monday, January 21st, 2019

USM to host teach-in focusing on ISIS activity

Posted on October 04, 2014 in News
By Sam Hill

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, commonly referred to as ISIS, has made headlines around the world recently for making violent threats against the United States and its allies, and the beheading of two American journalists.

On Wednesday, the office of Multicultural Students Affairs is hosting a teach-in for the public, focusing on the political and militant atmosphere in Middle Eastern countries, the history of unrest and violence in those areas and how ISIS activities are affecting the global community.

“Part of the mission of any higher learning institution is to train tomorrow’s leaders and global citizens, and in order to produce that, you have to make them aware of this larger world that exists beyond their own country,” said Reza Jalali, coordinator of the office.

The teach-in will include a panel consisting of Jalali, Ali Abdullatif Ahmida, a professor of political science at the University of New England, Senem Aslan, an assistant professor of politics at Bates College and Ali Al Mshakheel, a journalist formerly based in Iraq, where he wrote for the Times of London and ABC News.

Each panelist is scheduled to speak briefly about their views on ISIS, Middle Eastern history and the possibility of direct U.S. intervention before opening up to take questions from the audience. Jalali says the goal is to provide students and the community with a forum to ask questions, raise concerns and learn more about the conflict.

“We try to create a safe-zone so that people can ask any questions they want, because they’re not going to be judged,” said Jalali. “Not all learning takes place in the classroom — some of it happens in hallways, in student groups, some in lecture halls — and this is one place where people can just walk in and get some information for free.”

Jalali said that he wants students to understand that while this violence and conflict is happening far from the U.S., it can easily still impact them.

We’re not asking you to take sides, but regardless of how you feel, if there’s a conflict out there you may be called there to fight for your country or the price of gas may go up at home,” said Jalali. “As part of this global community, what happens there impacts us here.”

Aslan suggested that students explore a wide range of news sources to fully understand what’s happening regarding ISIS activities.

“They can read newspapers that have reporters on the ground in the region. They can read foreign newspapers to get a sense of how U.S. actions are affecting other countries or how they are perceived by citizens of the Middle East and beyond,” she wrote in an email to the Free Press.

Jalai said he hopes that discussion will lead toward the history of the situation as well, noting that widespread terrorist groups do not simply sprout up overnight.

“Students should start to develop that historical consciousness about U.S foreign policy because today’s decisions will continue affecting their lives in the years to come,” wrote Aslan. “The problems that we face today in Iraq and Syria have a lot to do with the U.S. occupation in Iraq in 2003, for example.”

Recent polls from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal show that 72% of Americans believe that the U.S. will send combat troops overseas against ISIS militants, even though President Barack Obama has spoken against it on many occasions. Jalali said that he feels while Americans are willing to send armed forces into Syria, most don’t know where Syria is.

“To me that is horrible, because we ask our brave young men and women in uniform to go fight this war, but we don’t bother ourselves to know where we’re sending them,” said Jalali. “We’ve kind of divided these countries into friends, foes and people we really don’t care about. With that kind of generalization and stereotyping, events like this [the teach-in] become really important.”

The teach-in will be held in the Woodbury Campus Center amphitheater from 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday and there will be light snacks available.

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