Understanding 9/11: Why 9/11 Happened & How Terrorism Affects Our World Today


This course will explore the forces that led to the 9/11 attacks and the policies the United States adopted in response. We will examine the phenomenon of modern terrorism, the development of the al Qai’da ideology, and the process by which individuals radicalize towards violence.

What you will learn

Week 1: Course Overview and the 9/11 Attacks

In this course, we will examine why al Qai-da attacked America. We will also examine the phenomenon of terrorism, in general, and the radical ideology developed and propagated by Osama bin Laden through al Qaida, more specifically. We will consider why individuals are attracted to this ideology and how they radicalize to violence. We will also explore how the United States addressed terrorism prior to 9/11 and the policy changes the US (and its allies around the globe) faced in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

Week 2: What is Terrorism?

Our topic for this week is, what is terrorism. We will try to define terrorism and understand the actions that we’re going to be studying in this course, 9/11 and its aftermath. We will examine one of the key debates in this area; can terrorism be executed by a state, or is it only the use of political violence by a non-state actor. You will also learn how to write a policy memo.

Week 3: A Primer on Islam

This week we have a special treat: we will have an extensive conversation with Imam Abdullah Antepli, the Islamic Chaplin here at Duke. We’ll cover a wide range of topics, including Islamic history, law, the role of women and the Muslim experience in the post – 9/11 world.

Week 4: The al Qai’da Ideology

Our topic for this week is the al Qaeda ideology. An ideology is essentially the set of beliefs that an individual, a group, or an organization has to either motivate them or to give that organization purpose. For al Qaeda, of course this is incredibly important because they’re trying to motivate individuals to sacrifice their lives for what they view as a great cause.

What’s included