Muslim Militancy and Youth Unrest in France

The past two nights I’ve spent downtown at the World Affairs Council on Sutter Street in SF.

Wednesday night I listened to an outstanding presentation and Q&A titled Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy. Professor Gerges (extremely impressive) gave a lucid overview of the state of the militant jihad, the middle east in general, and our efforts at fighting terrorism. Here are my rough notes from the talk. Big take aways that I didn’t know:

  • After 9/11 most all moderate Muslims and some radical clerics denounced 9/11 as terrorism as not jihad. American media keeps asking, "Where are moderate Muslims?" False question. But, the same cleric who denounced 9/11 also said all Muslims should kill American soldiers in Iraq (and anyone who supports them).
  • 65% of Arab world is under 28 years old!
  • Third generation is bubbling up from Iraqi insurgency
  • Took European nation-state concept 300 years to reach a fully functioning civil society. Comparatively, Arab state isn’t making bad progress.
  • They are electing governments like Hamas because secular governments haven’t been able to stem poverty and have, all in all, been a dismal failure. Why not try something else?

That youth statistic really caught my attention — is there a way we can overcome the hundreds of millions Saudi Arabia spends on indoctrinating their kids in schools? In other words, can we penetrate the system on an ideas level?

After the talk I had dinner with my good friend Valerie Cunningham of GoingOn at Perry’s, where we could debrief on the talk and catch up on each other’s lives and Silicon Valley happenings.

Tonight I attended Understanding Youth Unrest in France, a talk put on by two Berkeley professors. It, too, was informative. Interestingly, one of the Berkeley professors was in France during the latest protests over employment law and…marched with them! Given my opinion on those riots, you can imagine my surprise. My big takeaway was that the U.S. media grossly exaggerated the extent of the riots and violence. I learned some interesting factoids about France, its history with race and protesting, and the state of current political life, but there was little discussion on how to actually solve the unemployment problem. Here are my notes from the talk.

All in all, an enlightening two evenings, good food for the brain, and despite backing me up on work, totally worth it.

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