Students take time to better understand terrorism, Middle East through MU class

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Whitehaven High School/Memphis, Tenn.
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COLUMBIA — Men and women stand in a classroom dressed as terrorists, not for Halloween, but for the sake of education.

These students, who are enrolled in Paul Wallace’s class on genocide and terrorism, are learning to understand what it’s like to be a terrorist and to be stereotyped.

They start

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the terrorists’ plots. Finally, they move on to being a panel of international citizens, an organization like the United Nations.

Wallace, a professor emeritus in MU’s Department of Political Science, uses an unconventional method to teach his students how to understand a terrorist’s ways. He teaches his students to get the experience of being in terrorists’ shoes.

“You have to go deeper than profiling,” Wallace said. “Americans put all Muslims in a basket.”

He said that sometimes, people use the terms “Muslim” and “terrorist” interchangeably — a dangerous form of stereotyping.

“That only creates more terrorists,” he said.

Wallace asks, “What fuels you as a person?”

While some students have taken Wallace’s class, other students, such as Chris Carmody, have taken other classes that open their eyes to different views.

Carmody, a recent graduate, said taking Geography of the Middle East with Joseph Hobbs, who has extensively traveled in the Middle East, changed his perspective on Muslims and their culture.

“In the past I’ve followed news from the Middle East, but it all seemed somewhat distant because I didn’t know much about the culture or people,” he said in an e-mail.

Experiencing the theoretical life of a terrorist and being in some of their environments help students better recognize what it’s like to be a terrorist.

Wallace said he teaches students the need to “understand the terrorist group and understand why they’re terrorists.”

Carmody, recounting his days in class, said they toured the mosque near campus and heard from people who had been to the Middle East or practiced Islam.

He wrote, “It helped me cut through some of the stereotypes and generalities and gain a better understanding of the people.”