Professors Reflect on Impact of 9/11
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — The correlation between 9/11 and the 2011 Arab Spring and the idea of Amoral Moralism were the topics of a two-part lecture by St. Francis College Professors Yassin El-Ayouty and Gerald J. Galgan, marking the 10th anniversary of the attacks in the College’s Maroney Forum for Arts, Culture & Education on September 19.
Dr. El-Ayouty, who edited Perspectives on 9/11 (Praeger, 2004), comprised of 16 original contributions written by scholars from around the world, described the series of uprisings and revolutions across the Arab world this year as “the most important development of the 21st century,” a quote from Oxford History Professor Timothy Garton Ash.
He categorized the Arab Spring as an unfinished remaking of Arab society based on a populist search for dignity and social justice. Dr. El-Ayouty pointed out that the fire of revolution was ignited, literally, by the self-immolation of a Tunisian fruit seller and has so far deposed four dictators (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen).
He went on to say that the crumbling “wall of fear” that kept the despots in power showed that the Arab world could affect great change through pluralistic and democratic means and not through terrorism.
“It dealt a devastating blow to the ideology of Al-Qaeda, as the flags which were raised in Tahrir Square, Cairo did not proclaim ‘Islam is the solution;’ they proclaimed ‘Democracy is the solution.’” Al-Azhar, the more than 1,000-year-old citadel of learning in both Sunni and Shia Islam, declared that “Islam does not recognize a state based on religion; a timely response to the hallucinatory declarations by Al-Qaeda and its franchises.”
The first part of the lecture was delivered by Philosophy Professor Gerald Galgan, who co-wrote the epilogue to Perspectives on 9/11. Galgan covered several topics in his talk including architectural memory, with a focus on the new World Trade Center memorial and the idea of Amoral Moralism, under which a terrorist may believe that what he is doing is moral because he believes it is right, even though the action in and of itself is amoral.
Galgan sees this as a philosophical shift from the idea that an individual wills something because it’s good, to thinking that something is good because the individual wills it. The emphasis is now on a person’s desire rather than on the action itself.
Galgan said that a way to combat the idea of Amoral Moralism is to expand on the notion that it takes a village to raise a child, saying that it takes a civilization to cultivate a citizen of a democratic republic. A second event will take place on November 7 at 12:30 p.m. with two other professors who contributed to the Perspectives on 9/11 epilogue, Dr. Francis Greene & Bro. Edward Wesley. They will discuss commemorative practices at the World Trade Center site Franciscan responses to memories of 9/11.