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Terrorism and Tolerance

Updated: September 24, 2003

International terrorism is a complex topic. A complete discussion is well beyond the scope of either this page or most K-12 curricula. We have selected the resources below to help students and teachers gain a clearer understanding of:

  • The variety of terrorist organizations and causes
  • The national and international responses to these organizations
  • The history, culture, and problems in the countries which sponsor or encourage terrorism.
  • The importance of tolerance – avoiding condemning the innocent – whatever their religion or nationality – in the search for those responsible for terrorist act.

While most of these resources are from credible western news and government organizations, we have included several Islamic and Muslim resources, at least one of which makes the case for a radical interpretation of Islam. Understanding what others believe – rightly or wrongly – is central to coping with this issue. As always, we welcome suggestions for additions to these pages. Please send them to

Teaching Tolerance

Information and resources which can help students better understand each other and the world in which they live. We will add lessons to this list as they become available.

Lines in the Sand: Defining Middle Eastern Borders – Our own "Teachers’ Toolkit" for the mideast offers a look at the political, religious, economic, and social factors that have interplayed with one another over the past hundred years to make the middle east what it is today. This unit is rich with primary sources, and there are guiding questions for each section to help structure the discussions. An interactive time line helps students understand the history of events in this troubled region.

Muhammad – Legacy of a Prophet – This web site – a companion to the PBS program of the same name – offers pofiles of both the prophet Muhammad and several contemporary American Muslims who describe the meaning of their faith. The web site contains additional historical and biographical information as well as background information on Islam. Try this one if your students are studying either the mideast, comparative religions, or American cultural traditions.

One Year Later – Tips for Teachers – The National Association of School Psychologists has prepared this set of guidelines and recommendations to help teachers and schools cope with the anniversary of the September 11 attacks in a manner that supports the needs of students and staff. Since the anniversary will come close to the start of the school year in many communities, this is an especially important topics. You can find related content for Parents and Teens at our companion TeachersAndFamilies site.

TeachersFirst’s American history lessons include several lessons dealing with immigration, discrimination, and the ways in which Americans have treated foreigners and minorities in the past. What lessons can we learn from this experience? How can we respond to hatred both within our country and outside it?

Tolerance resources available online include several publications by Planet Tolerance is a collection of stories and other resources for students. Teaching Tolerance offers a set of ideas and links to help combat discrimination against persons of Arabic or Sikh descent. Finally, there are 101 Tools for Tolerance -a collection of steps that we all can take to improve the climate of tolerance at school, in the workplace, or elsewhere.

The Peacemakers Speak – Grades 9-12 – This is a collection of reflections and essays on events since September 11 written by past winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. While the themes are similar, each takes a slightly different perspective on how to resolve the many issues surrounding responses to terrorism.

A World at Peace – Grades 2-6 – An Internet-based lesson from PBS which introduces younger students to the concepts of human rights, including the rights of children, as well as the diversity of cultures.

Inquiry on Terrorism – Grades 6-12 – This lesson asks students to research and report on a terrorist group or activity, giving examples of past terrorist events, both domestic and international. Good ideas from a practicing teacher.

Afghanistan and its Neighbors – Grades 9-12 – This web-based lesson from PBS is particularly strong for its listings of web resources on specific nations and cultures in and around Afghanistan. The lesson uses a "model summit" approach to let students explore the conditions that might bring peace to the region.

Conflict Resolution – Teachers, Grades 2-8 – This is a venerable, unformatted lesson plan dealing with conflict resolution. What it lacks in visual impact it more than compensates for in content, offering examples and numerous exercises on situations and behaviors that can cause conflict at the individual level. In addition to its utility in the classroom, teachers may find this useful in helping students understand global conflicts.

A Nation of Many Cultures – Grades K-5 – This basic look at the diversity of American cultures asks students to describe their own families, customs, and heritage using language and art. From PBS.



Sites commemorating – in a wide variety of ways – the events of September 11, 2001

Remember, Rebuild, Renew – The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s site offers presentations on the 7 designs submitted for reclaiming the area once occupied by the World Trade Center buildings. Users can view slide shows for each proposal and read the architects’ descriptions of how their design best meets the LMDC’s three-part goal. What do your students think the best memorial would be?

Resources from the New York Times – The Times offers teachers a starting page with links to lesson plans, books, writing ideas, and other topics related to the 9/11 attacks.

Images From Ground Zero – Created with funding from the U.S. State Department, this site offers a striking collection of images recorded by a single photographer in the days following the 9/11 attacks. Much of the effect comes from the order in which the images display, one at a time. Well worth a visit as a source for written or oral reflections.

Portraits of Grief – The New York Times offers what is probably the most eloquent commemoration of those killed in the World Trade Center by telling individual life stories.

September 11 Digital Archive – The Smithsonian’s collection of images, media coverage, and other collections of responses to the September 11 attacks.

September 11 Web Archive – The Library of Congress offers archived web content from news organizations and others sources, as well as extensive collections of images and related materials.

America Transformed – Print and audio transcripts from National Public Radio coverage of the attacks and their aftermath during the month after the first attacks.

A Changed World – Combating Terrorism – Reporting and commentary from the Christian Science Monitor about the war on terrorism and its consequences, both foreign and domestic.

Caught in the Crossfire – Companion web site to an independently produced public television program which follows the lives of several Arab-Americans – including a police officer, a diplomatic reporter, and a clergyman – during the months following the September 11 attacks.

Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero – A look at how last September’s events challenged people’s beliefs. While incomplete at this writing, the site should be ready by the time this program airs on September 3.

Life After 9.11 – Grades 7-12 – Created by the producers of the PBS News Hour, this site examines a succession of issues and events after 9.11 with a strong emphasis on young peoples’ interests. The result combines a nice chronology with a series of comments, questions, and other contributions by teens and those who work with them. The site also includes additional information and ideas for teachers.

September 11 – Then and Now – Bill Moyers interviews a sampling of people who were directly or indirectly affected by the events of September 11 to see how their lives have changed. The site examines both the victims of the attacks and the tensions between security and free expression which have emerged in the past year.

New York City – After the Fall – Suitable for older students, this is one of many media-rich 9/11 commemorations, combining poetry and music in an on-screen presentation.

Teaching 9-11 – Dickinson College’s Clarke Center for Contemporary Issues offers one of the more straightforward collections of teaching resources related to 9-11, including lesson plans, archival materials, and commentary.


Resources on Islam and Arabian Cultures

100 Questions and Answers About Arab Americans – The Detroit Free Press offers a well-written background on Arab Americans, Arab culture, religion, and other topics. Succinct answers are written in language that many young people will understand. A great resource.

Global Connections – A well-designed, information-rich companion site to a PBS program of the same name, this site attempts to show the numerous interconnections between cultural, political, and religious issues in the middle east. The site includes a time-line, a detailed overview of the state of political institutions in the region, and an explanation of some of the issues which are key to residents of the area, but less well publicized in the west. Those seeking understanding of Islamic cultures and politics will find much here.

Several national and international organizations have mounted significant efforts to provide information on Islamic religion and culture. These include:

The American Arab Antidiscrimination Committee

The Arab American Institute

America-Mideast Education and Training

Council on Islamic Education

Resources on Terrorism

In Search of Al Queda – Ongoing reporting from a PBS Frontline team currently investigating terrorism in Pakistan. Text heavy, but very current information.

Terrorism – Questions and Answers – This regularly-updated site strives to provide straightforward information in a "what we do know; what we don’t know…" format. The breadth of topics is significant, and there are extensive links to outside sources whose authoritativeness varies. This one is a great starting point for studying the evolving response to terrorism.

Background on Terrorism – Foreign Affairs Magazine has compiled a collection of article reprints on terrorism, the mideast, and Muslim extremists that goes back as early as 1998. Full text articles are available, along with marginal notes that lead to additional information on specific subtopics. This one’s for serious older students or teachers, but the quality of the content is excellent.

The Mideast Struggle for Peace – To radical Muslims, the U.S. relationship with Israel is a major factor in their view of the west. This gives the issue of peace in the Mideast a new perspective and urgency. This is CNN’s special report on the current state of relations between Israel and the Palestinians, along with a history of the conflict in the region.

Patterns of Global Terrorism – The US State Department’s 1998 report on the extent of global terrorism includes assessments of terrorist activities in various parts of the world, including the Mideast and south Asia.

Terrorist Group Activities and Profiles are available at this site hosted by the Navy Postgraduate School. The chronological listings of terrorist events provide a vivid illustration of the international scope of the problem and the variety of groups involved.

Countering the Threat of International Terrorism – The Federation of American Scientists published this report – authored by a distinguished group. It provides excellent summaries of terrorist activity and suggested responses, as well as significant background information.

Terrorism – The Federation of American Scientists has created a frequently-updated listing of terrorism reports and resources, including government reports, background articles, and related information.

Terrorism and U.S. Policy – This collection of publicly available documents compiled by George Washington University’s National Security Archive could be a rich resource for older high school students interested in examining the origins of the current crises. The site includes materials obtained from the CIA, FBI, and Department of Defense

Afghanistan and the Taliban

Afghanistan for Children – This is a site from a couple who lived in Afghanistan with their children many years ago. In addition to a collection of Afghan folk tales and general information about the country, the site includes excerpts from a coloring book originally published for English-speaking children living in the country. An interesting flashback to what this country once was. From Arizona State University.

BBC – War on Terror – This theme page on the conflict in Afghanistan is notable because it includes links to audio reports from several BBC, Pakistani, and other Persian radio services. You’ll need the RealAudio player to listen in.

Who Are the Taleban? – A background report from the BBC’s South Asia service.

The Afghan Taliban – A 1998 article from the Washington Report on Middle East affairs authored by a former professor at the University of Kabul.

The Taliban – Who Are They? – USA Today’s mini-brief on the Taliban; suitable even for middle school use.

The CIA on Afghanistan – A thorough, factual rundown on the country, containing political, economic, geographic, and other background information. Good starting point for a study of the country itself. From the CIA World Fact Book.

Reactions in Writing – Three written responses to the 9/11 events, one of which was acutally written many years ago.

Nine Failures of the Imagination – A perspective from a New York Times writer.

Brother, if you Don’t Mind… – Reactions from a survivor

A Canadian view of the Americans – A reprint of an op-ed piece originally printed in 1973.

The Muslim View – There is, of course, no single Muslim view. Below are two current resources which take widely different views of the current crisis. NOTE: Both of these sites contain numerous links to third-party resources. As you use them, be aware of whose material you are reading. For more information on Islam, see the TeachersFirst section on the Mideast. – A "mainstream" site that offers a collection of resources about Islam and Muslims, as well as a variety of commentary from third parties.

Dharb-i-Mumin – CAUTIONTeachers should review this site thoroughly before using it with their students. This is the web site for a Pakistani weekly newspaper that takes a radical view of Islam. Users will probably find some of this content disturbing, yet it is a good illustration of the variety of beliefs in the Islamic world. The content is suitable primarily for high school students.





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