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Special Topics

Special Topics Addendum for Academic Training Modules


Presentations and material are added here addressing special topics that emerge with current events. Supplemental material that has not yet been incorporated into the other presentations is also linked here. This material is dynamic and individual units may be deleted as they are incorporated into the other modules.

Cultures in Conflict?


 Benign Cultural Conflict or Incitement to Terrorism?

This presentation addresses issues regarding the January/February 2006 publication of several offensive cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad. The cartoons, originally published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Postenin in 2005, received little attention until they were reprinted in early 2006 by several newspapers including two Jordanian tabloids. Some (but not all) of the cartoons present derogatory caricatures of the Prophet, while others are not pejorative; however, Islam forbids all depictions of the Prophet Mohammad (as well as the other Prophets including Jesus) and most Muslims consider these images blasphemous. 

Radical Islamic fundamentalists have used this incident to provoke increasing tensions between the West and Islam. Riots have broken out in the Middle East and other Muslims countries, and angry protests have been staged in London, Paris, and other European cities. The extremists have called for attacks on the West in defense of Islam. The Western democracies generally have two responses; the governments uniformly condemn the cartoons as being in 'bad taste,' while an increasing number of independent newspapers have reprinted the cartoons as a statement endorsing free speech. Undoubtedly the publication of these cartoons will continue to be exploited by radical Islamic fundamentalists. In countries where blasphemy is a criminal offense and a free press does not exist, the populace are likely to consider this further evidence of a Western attack against Islam and to justify terrorist attacks against the West.

Click here for the PowerPoint presentation (3.36 MB).

Warning: This presentation contains images that may be offensive to conservative Muslims. The images are included here for informational purposes only, and progressive Muslims are invited to view them in order to decide for themselves the nature of the offense.

The Al-Qaeda Primer


Al-Qaeda: From Obscure Organization to Worldwide Movement

Al-Qaeda has emerged as the prototypic RIF terrorist organization. This short presentation briefly examines some key elements involved in the formation of al-Qaeda and its elevation to world prominence.

Click here for the PowerPoint presentation (0.2 MB).

Hitting the Target


 The Case for Introducing "RIF" into Contemporary Vocabulary

Radical Islamic fundamentalists (RIF) constitute the overwhelming majority of Muslim terrorists active worldwide. Keeping the focus clearly on this small subset of Muslims while avoiding the inadvertent reference to "Muslims" in general helps to minimize the association of terrorism with Islam that is both inappropriate and offensive to most Muslims. Furthermore, the frequent repetition of the words “Muslim terrorist” and “Islamic terrorist” in the media and elsewhere produces a learned association between these terms whereby the words “Muslim” and “Islam” alone tend to evoke similar emotional responses as does the term “terrorist.” This simple classical conditioning can be easily avoided by substituting a novel, more appropriate term to describe the relevant terrorist group—“RIF terrorist” aptly identifies the target group as Radical Islamic Fundamentalists without generalizing to the larger population of nonviolent Muslims.

This brief presentation argues the importance of introducing the term “RIF” into contemporary vocabulary. Elementary principles of psychology explain how the frequent repetition of two terms develops a close association between them and how this learned association can produce a conditioned emotional response (CER) to the terms “Muslim” or “Islam” similar to that evoked by the terms “terrorist” and “terrorism.” These CERs increase reactivity, make reactions more defensive or even hostile, and evoke a desire to avoid stimuli associated with the aversive CER. And while the RIF terrorists may wish to have the mere mention of “Islam” evoke terror in the minds of the West, this is counter-productive to defusing the rapidly growing tensions between Islam and the non-Muslim world.

Click here for the PowerPoint presentation (0.2 MB).

Gaza and Israeli Policies


Nicolas Kabat has provided a well-written and insightful presentation describing much of the historical basis of the present Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the often unilaterally decreed policies of Israel. What is especially unique about his presentation is that Nicolas is one of a relatively small number of Jews who support Palestinian rights at the risk of being accused of being anti-Semitic himself. Point-in-fact this is a very difficult topic to discuss even at many American universities and Jews are particularly at-risk for punitive action for their failure to blindly support Israeli policies. http://PsychologyofTerrorism.com/Kabat--Gaza and Israeli NSS.pptx