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The most interesting part of Joel Beinin’s presidential address to MESA may be his rejection of the claim that MESA can be fairly criticized for failing to study Islamic terrorism. Beinin argues that there was “great wisdom” in the refusal to study such terrorism. Why? Because a focus on “tactics and symptoms” impedes investigation into “historical and social causes.” This is misconceived. A proper study of terrorism would draw detailed connections between the organizational, ideological, and practical situation of terrorists, and larger historical or sociological causes. The critics of MESA have already drawn such connections–showing, for example, by analysis of the terrorists themselves, that attempts to explain terrorism through economic deprivation are unconvincing. By claiming that we can assess historical and social causes without also looking at the on-the-ground details of terrorism, what Professor Beinin is really doing is giving MESA a free hand to engage in the usual “Why do they hate us?” speculation. So Beinin’s claim that it was wise to ignore the detailed study of terrorism only compounds the shame of MESA’s ongoing refusal to face this pressing reality.



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