By David Miller
The Teaching About Terrorism Group held a very positive two day seminar in London in early June. A range of issues were discussed including
- discussions with the UCU about how to defend members who were attacked in the press as had happened to members of the group at Aberystwyth who had been targeted by Melanie Phillips, in allegations rejected by the University.
- Discussion about the Nottingham case and its implications for academic freedom.
- discussion about the wide variety of experiences that members had in teaching and research terrorism.
- The implications of government guidance on good campus relations for teaching about terrorism.
The group to take forward a number of initiatives including policy guidance and research activities, some of which relate to the grant we have been given by C-SAP to survey terrorism teaching and experience.
'Al Qaeda Training Manual' available on Amazon
A Nottingham postgraduate student and an administrator were arrested in May 2008 and held for six days by counter-terrorism police after a document known as the ‘Al Qaeda Training Manual’ was found on the administrator’s computer. The student had sent him the document some months previously as he wanted his advice on whether or not it was a good source to use in his MA dissertation – which was on Al Qaeda. The student, before his arrest, did ask a lecturer at the university if it would be alright for him to use as a source. This lecturer, after checking the document out, agreed.
What exactly is the ‘Al Qaeda Training Manual’? It is a handwritten document (originally in Arabic) that was found in Manchester in 2000 by the police and translated by them into English. Its real title is ‘Declaration of Jihad against the Country’s Tyrants’ (or sometimes ‘Military Studies in the Jihad against the Tyrants’) and appears to have originated in Egypt in the early 1990s. It was designed to be used by Islamists opposing the Egyptian government in particular and secular Arab regimes more generally in the 1980s/1990s. The words ‘Al Qaeda’ actually do not appear in it once. It was only given the title ‘The Al Qaeda Training Manual’ by the US Department of Justice (US DoJ) which was using this document (having obtained it from the British police) as evidence in the trial in New York of the East African embassy bombers in 2000. The name was changed presumably in an attempt to ‘sex up’/‘spin’ the document to make it sound more ‘incriminating’ to a jury.
C-SAP has awarded around £12,000 to a team from the Teaching About Terrorism Group to study how Terrorism and political violence are taught across the UK. The team is led by David Miller (Strathclyde) and includes Marie Breen Smyth (Abersytwyth) and Dave Whyte (Liverpool).
This project aims to research the extent and nature of teaching about terrorism in UK Universities in Sociology, Politics and Criminology. This is important because of the renewed interest in teaching and researching terrorism that has hugely expanded post 11 September 2001. It is also because the teaching of terrorism has become a topic of some controversy as a result of government, media and law enforcement interest, with considerable resulting uncertainty about what constitutes appropriate and legal content for teaching and learning. (more…)