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Experts Vary in Pinpointing Root Cause of Terrorism

What are the root causes of terrorism? That was the question posed to panelists Thursday at Missouri State University's Public Affairs Conference. KSMU's Jennifer Moore attended the session and reports on the various answers the panelists gave to that question.

About a hundred listeners, several of them taking notes, gathered yesterday to hear experts discuss what they thought fueled modern-day terrorism.

Their opinions were varied.

The first panelist, Dr. Robert Williams of Pepperdine University in California, said one source of tension is the perception in the Middle East that the US is greedy, and that America is only interested in the region because of its oil.

"There's also a concern in parts of the Middle East with the regimes that rule some of these territories, certainly in Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates and elsewhere. And the popular perception, and it's not far wrong, is that the United States supports these regimes because of our dependency on their oil and their willingness to sell to us," Williams said.

Williams said that citizens the Middle East are frustrated from seeing the US turn a blind eye to human rights violations and un-democratic behavior when done by a ruler whose oil America depends on.

The second panelist was Daud Qariadah, bureau chief for the BBC World Service in Kabul, Afghanistan. He felt the root of terrorism lies in a combination of poverty and the madrassas of Pakistan, where young children are brainwashed into believing that religion and violence go hand-in-hand.

The final panelist, political science professor Stacy Ulbig of Sam Houston State University in Texas, said America and the Muslim world have completely different perceptions on the root cause of modern-day terrorism.

"To most Americans, the root cause is an extremist, fanatic, kind of religious zealot, a small group of people who do these things. But when you talk to the Muslim community worldwide, the sense is not that the terrorist attacks are not because of religious divides. But they are because of American foreign policy, and the history of America's intervention in the region," Ulbig said.

All three panelists agreed that America's foreign policy and long history of intervention in the region have played a major role in creating resentment on the Arab street towards the United States.

The panel failed to even mention, however, what that history of intervention in the region has entailed.

For KSMU News, I'm Jennifer Moore.