International Studies Program Hosts Discussion of War on Terror and Islamophobia

Students and Panelists Engage in Conversation about Aftermath of September 11 Attacks

Hartford, Connecticut, October 6, 2016 – “The War on Terror and Islam: Long Histories and Painful Sociologies,” a panel discussion sponsored by Trinity’s International Studies Program, took place on September 13, 2016, with Nisha Kapoor, lecturer in sociology at University of York, and Karine Walther, assistant professor of history at the School of Foreign Service in Qatar at Georgetown University. Each year around the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the International Studies Program organizes an event that addresses related themes. Vijay Prashad, George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies, said, “We believe that our students deserve an analytic and informed place to hold discussions about 9/11 and its aftermath. We believe that this year’s program fulfilled our sense of what is necessary.”

The War on Terror began after the 9/11 attacks on the United States and is one of the longest wars fought in modern times. According to Prashad, “The essence of the war has been an immense use of resources for what seem to be limited gains. The failures of the War on Terror to contain terrorism led to – among other things – a rise of Islamophobia.” The current U.S. presidential campaign and a surge of far right parties in Europe put Muslims at the center of the discussion. “It is therefore more than germane to consider these issues in tandem and with analytical seriousness,” said Prashad.

Walther used her book Sacred Interests to draw a line backward to the United States’ long history of anxiety about Islam. Walther’s thought-provoking presentation showcased how fear of the Arab and Muslim population has played a historical role in U.S. foreign policy. Simultaneously, Kapoor raised the question of domestic security and the way in which the U.K. has dealt with the problem of those whom it deems to be terrorists, that is, U.K. nationals. Kapoor emphasized liberal rules being bent to put stress on Western liberalism and attempt to revoke citizenship.

Walther’s manuscript titled Sacred Empire: Islam and U.S. Foreign Policy, 1821-1921 focuses on how ideas about Islam influenced American foreign relations between the Greek War of Independence and the end of WWI. Kapoor was the 2012-13 Samuel DuBois Cook Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the study of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Social Sciences (REGSS) at Duke University. She now holds a visiting fellowship and has recently been awarded an ERSC Future Research Leaders Award titled “Race and Citizenship in the Context of the War on Terror.”

A question and answer session allowed students to engage in conversation with the panelists. Sanjay Thapa ’17 said, “Karine Walther reflected on a story about Muslim women from Qatar visiting the U.S. to meet Muslim students from The Muslim Student Association organization in U.S. universities. She was shocked to hear that American Muslim students emphasize not being like Middle Eastern Muslim. They claimed they were not oppressed like the Arab women. I understood how orientalist representations of Arab women and Islam continue to be produced and reproduced.”

Written by Bhumika Choudhary ’18