Yesterday was my last first day of class. As any other senior, I am excited to move beyond “syllabus days” and graduate from UW. And sometimes, I am ready to leave now due to classes like “Political Science 347: Terrorism” taught by Professor Andrew Kydd. As soon as the first lecture ended, I was livid.
The course material fails to provide any context. First, one cannot define terrorism singularly by the factions of terrorist groups or non-state actors without including state-sponsored terrorism. To understand terrorism, one needs to understand the circumstances that fueled it. Sure, we can discuss the Taliban’s opposing views on the American government, but not without discussing that same American government’s cooperation and anti-Soviet training with the Mujahideen.
Then, there’s a whole module titled “Jihad.” This legitimizes a perception that the concept of Jihad is one-dimensional, single-faceted, and inherently violent and connected to terrorism. Will we be discussing the different types of jihad, by the heart, tongue, and hand? Is the professor an Islamic scholar who can accurately speak about jihad?
In another module, “Counter-Terrorism,” the class will discuss the use of drones, assassinations, torture and civil liberties as forms of counter-terrorism. To me, and many others around the world, these methods of “counter-terrorism” are terrorism. Having drones as analyzing a method without identifying that it, in itself is terrorism, is an issue. Domestic programs like Countering Violent Extremism — an initiative from the Department of Homeland Security that indiscriminately targets Muslim communities in America, causes fear, paranoia and distrust within the community.
For all those who ally with Muslim students or students of color, this is your chance to step up. For us, constantly debating with professors, stepping up to always teach others and simply being present around this type of rhetoric is emotionally taxing.
This is where you come in. Do the work to educate yourself, and then educate your peers.
If you want to learn about terrorism from an American exceptionalism perspective to advance a Zionist, orientalist and/or neocolonialist agenda, then yes, this is the class for you. But if you actually want to study state-sponsored terrorism from a global perspective, learn from Palestinians, who have survived under Israeli Zionist-sponsored settler terrorism; Somalis, who just faced a bomb attack on an Islamic school yesterday; Afghans, who have witnessed constant warfare for more than 16 years; Yemenis, who have been murdered by Saudi air strikes with weapons supplied and planes refueled by the U.S.; Rohingyas, who have faced genocide at the hands of the Myanmar government; Uyghurs, who have been repressed and mass incarcerated, and please, don’t get me started with U.S. state-sponsored terrorism.
Too often, international studies and political science courses at UW fuel orientalist, imperialist and xenophobic narratives that spew American exceptionalism. I have the privilege to drop this course and know why I had to. The other 100+ students in lecture have no idea what they’ll be getting into, and unfortunately, will be learning about concepts in “terrorism” in an extremely limited way. In the end, I enroll in classes to be educated, not to educate others. UW do better.
I urge you to email Professor Kydd at [email protected] to change the syllabus’ language, modules and reading sources to allow for a more comprehensive and intellectual conversation on “terrorism.”
Ali Kahn ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science and communication arts.