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Remembering 9/11

  • News Image
    Lawrence Wright, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Looming Tower, signs copies of his book after speaking at Southwestern Sept. 6. Wright’s visit to Southwestern was part of a month-long series of events being held on campus to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
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    Professor Rebecca Lorins and students Courtney Cockrell and Eli Sreniawski paint a "memory booth" that will be placed in the Campus Center throughout September for members of the campus community to hear oral histories of Sept. 11 and record their own memories.
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    The library has a display featuring books by speakers who will be at the Sept. 10 symposium.
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    Iraqi/Canadian hip-hop artist Yassin Alsalman (“The Narcicyst”) will perform at Southwestern Sept. 9 as part of the activities related to the Sept. 11 anniversary.

Political Science Department co-sponsors events marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks

Several film screenings and a day-long symposium are among the events that will be offered at Southwestern to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The events have been organized by Rebecca Lorins, a part-time assistant professor of religion who teaches courses in Islamic Studies. The overall theme for the events she has organized is “Sept. 11, 2001: Memories, Legacies and Aftermaths Ten Years Later.”

“The 10th anniversary offers us a chance to collectively reflect on the events of that day, the wider political and historical context, as well as the events that followed, such as the War on Terror and the backlash against Muslims,” Lorins said.

The events Lorins has organized begin on Thursday, Sept. 1, with a screening of the 2011 film “Rebirth,” which profiles a decade in the lives of five people who were directly affected by the 9/11 attacks. The film incorporates images from Project Rebirth, which is using time-lapse photography to document the ongoing reconstruction of the World Trade Center site. The film will be shown at 4 p.m. in the Mood-Bridwell Atrium and will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Bob Bednar, associate professor of communication studies; Ken Mello, assistant professor of religion; and Judith Sonnenberg, director of Counseling and Health Services.

On Tuesday, Sept 6., there will be a screening of the HBO documentary “My Trip to Al-Qaeda,” which was based on the one-man play written by Lawrence Wright, whose book, The Looming Tower, won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. The documentary gives a firsthand account of Wright’s experience researching his book. Wright will introduce the documentary and participate in a Q&A session following the movie. The screening will begin at 4 p.m. in Olin 105.

On Friday, Sept. 9, the “Friday Night Live” program sponsored by Student Activities will feature an Iraqi/Canadian hip-hop artist named Yassin Alsalman, who goes by the stage name “The Narcicyst.” His work addresses social, political and cultural issues of the post-9/11 era, and he is a leading voice in the emerging Arab hip hop movement in North America and globally. He will perform in the Cove from 8-10:30 p.m.

On Saturday, Sept. 10, Lorins has organized a symposium that will focus on how the 9/11 attacks have impacted Muslim communities in the United States and abroad. The symposium will run from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the Campus Center Ballrooms.

“The events of 9/11, and the response by the American government, had global implications and this symposium sheds light on the impact on Muslims in the United States and around the world,” Lorins said.

One of the panels will feature Alsalman (The Narcicyst) talking about the role of music, media and art in activism in a post-9/11 era. He is the author of a 2010 book titled The Diatribes of a Dying Tribe.

Another panel will focus on the post-9/11 detentions and deportations of Muslims. Speakers on this panel will include Peter Jan Honigsberg, professor of law at the University of San Francisco and director of the “Witness to Guantanamo” oral history project, and Irum Shiekh, author of Detained Without Cause: Muslims’ Stories of Detention and Deportation in America After 9/11.

A third panel will focus on Middle Eastern and South Asian displacement resulting from the War on Terror. This panel will include Junaid Rana, professor of Asian American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and author of Terrifying Muslims: Race and Labor in the South Asian Diaspora; and Isis Nusair, a professor of Women’s Studies at Denison University who has been conducting research with Iraqi women refugees.

Farhana (Ali) Qazi, a 1996 Southwestern graduate, will give a presentation titled “Muslims in the USA: The Untold Story.” Qazi is a counterterrorism consultant specializing in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Women in War, and the Muslim world.

The symposium also will include a workshop on civil rights and Muslims in the United States hosted by Mustafaa Carroll from the Texas Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and a salon on Islamophobia facilitated by local and visiting scholars.

The Frank A. Smith, Jr. Library Center has put together a selection of books, films and music to complement the symposium, including books by symposium participants. The display can be found in the periodicals area.

Physical Plant also helped Lorins construct a “memory booth” that will be placed in the Campus Center throughout the month of September. The booth will enable members of the campus community to listen to clips from Columbia University’s September 11, 2001 Oral History Projects archived at their Center for Oral History, and record their own memories and reactions.

In conjunction with the events Lorins is organizing, English Professor Elizabeth Piedmont-Marton is planning a Sept. 26 screening of the 2010 documentary “Camp Victory,” which chronicles the difficulties American soldiers had trying to help build an effective Afghan army. Filmmaker Carol Dysinger will be on campus to introduce the documentary, and the showing will be followed by a panel discussion featuring John Piedmont, a retired Lt. Col. in the U.S. Marine Corps, and Erik Peterson, a marine who is  returning from Kabul in August. This event will run from 4-6:30 p.m. in Olin 105.

Lorins said she became interested in Islam when she studied abroad in France as a junior in college. She lived across from a mosque attended by North African immigrants and became interested in issues pertaining to postcolonial migration, as well as African and Islamic studies. Upon returning to college, she took a course on Islam and Modernity and later began studying Arabic at night school at New York University. She has studied Arabic in Morocco and conducted research in Khartoum, Sudan.

Lorins was studying Arabic and Islam for five years before the Sept. 11 attacks and remembers how the events brought new visibility to the study of Islam and Muslim societies.

“The consequences of that visibility have been mixed. I hope this series will contribute to creating a space for dialogue and exchange about the past 10 years and the legacies that are still with us,” she said.

Lorins, whose Ph.D. is in comparative literature, said she has always been interested in the power of narratives to shape our world and worldviews. “I think it is important for us to listen to competing narratives of this important event,” she said. “I hope this series helps us to do that.”

Last year, Lorins applied for and received a faculty/student research grant to study the learning of Islam and Islamophobia in Texas after 9/11. Research for this project is ongoing and two students who helped her with the project will present their research at the 2012 Student Works Symposium.

The 9/11 anniversary events are being sponsored by the A. Frank Smith, Jr. Distinguished Lecture Program; the Slover Lectures in Religion; the Center for Spiritual and Religious Life; the Diversity Enrichment Committee; the Global Citizens Fund; the Office of Civic Engagement; The Paideia Program; Student Activities; the Community Chest; the Department of Communication Studies; the Department of English; the Feminist Studies Program; the Department of History; the Department of Music; the Department of Religion; the Department of Political Science; John Michael Cooper, holder of the Margarett Root Brown Chair in Fine Arts; and Physical Plant.