Saturday 19 October, 12.15pm until 1.15pm, Free Stage Hot off the Press 2013
On 21 September this year, 15 heavily armed members of the Al Shabab terror group took over Westgate Shopping Centre in central Nairobi and proceeded to slaughter shoppers without mercy and without any apparent goals other than wreaking carnage. While ‘terrorism’ is nothing new, the lack of any clear political agenda to this attack was particularly striking, and very much in contrast to the 20th century terrorism of groups like the PLO or the IRA. Whatever one thought of such organisations, there was no doubt that they had clear political goals and even enjoyed a degree of support among the people they claimed to represent.
While many observers have tried to understand attacks like 9/11 and 7/7 in similarly political terms, their perpetrators never bothered to articulate any agenda beyond claiming to target the enemies of Islam (even as they slaughtered innocent Muslims). So is the Westgate attack the latest example of a qualitatively different kind of terrorism? If so, how should we understand it? If not political, is Islamist violence genuinely inspired by religious belief or something more like nihilism? What is the appropriate response to seemingly mindless terror?
director, Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, Demos; author, The New Face of Digital Populism; co-author, #Intelligence
Professor Bill Durodié
head of department and chair of international relations, University of Bath
architect; writer; Middle East commentator; co-author, Manifesto: Towards a New Humanism in Architecture
teacher; former schools and alumni coordinator, Debating Matters Competition
This paper argues that we will continue to be perplexed by the enemy in the war on terror so long as we are unclear as to our own purpose and direction. Indeed, the perpetrators of such acts today appear more influenced by Western dystopianism than Eastern mysticism. Real resilience requires having a narrative of our own that projects a purpose beyond responding to adversity.Dr. Bill Durodié, Strategic Multi-layer Assessment, September 2013
Read all about it: truth in demand
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Thomas Hylland Eriksen, professor of social anthropology, University of Oslo; novelist