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Scholars at IU symposium address threat of global terrorism

Boaz Ganor pulled no punches in describing the threat posed by global jihadists. It's worse than the threat of the Cold War, he told an Indiana University audience, and far worse than the "amateurs" who tried to foment revolution through terrorism in the 1970s.

Ganor photo

Boaz Ganor

"You are either part of their version of Islam, or you are part of the war zone. They do not respect neutrality," said Ganor, an Israeli scholar and counterterrorism expert who is currently a Koret Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

"I'm afraid that what we are facing here is a war," he said. But it is not a conventional war, by any means. "This is a war of ideas; it is a battle of minds," he said.

Ganor, deputy dean of the Lauder School of Government and Diplomacy at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel, spoke at IU Bloomington's Rawles Hall in a symposium titled "From Mumbai to Gaza: Indian, Israeli, and Turkish Responses to Global Terror."

Alvin Rosenfeld

Chris Meyer

Alvin Rosenfeld

Print-Quality Photo

Also taking part in the April 15 discussion were IU faculty members Sumit Ganguly, director of the India Studies Institute and research director of the Center on American and Global Security; and Kemal Silay, Ottoman and Modern Turkish Studies Professor in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies.

Symposium moderator and organizer Alvin Rosenfeld, creator and emeritus director of IU's Borns Jewish Studies Program and professor of English, said the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, stunned the world and reminded it that terrorism is here to stay.

"Among countries targeted by terrorists, India, Israel and Turkey stand out," Rosenfeld said. "Each has been hit repeatedly, has seen many of their citizens and others in their countries killed, and seeks ways to forestall future attacks."

Ganguly focused on the "terrifying three days" in Mumbai, when terrorists carried out coordinated attacks in India's financial capital, taking hostages and killing at least 160 people. In South Asia, Ganguly said, the "nub of the problem" is the insistence by Pakistani intelligence forces on using terrorism as a strategy to enforce a balance of power with India.

Silay said Turkey, a secular nation with a large Muslim majority, has become a battleground in the war over the direction that Islam will take. As the audience watched in silence, he showed photographs of the 37 victims of the Sivas massacre -- artists and intellectuals killed in 1993 when a mob of radical Islamists set fire to the hotel where they were staying in Sivas, Turkey.

Ganor described Israel as tiny, vulnerable and hemmed in by enemies: Hezbollah to the north, Hamas to the South, an Iranian leader who is trying to develop nuclear weapons and has called for Israel's destruction, and global jihadis scattered across the world but united in their hatred of Israel.

While terrorism has long been part of the Middle East landscape, he said, the equation changed with the Hamas covenant of 1988, which turned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a nationalist battle to a religious war.

The battle against radical Islamism is "a religious war but, importantly, not a war between religions," he said, arguing that Muslims who stand up to Islamists may be the most effective force against al-Qaeda.