Nieuws - 20 september 2001

Terrorist attack on New York and Washington affects people within Wageningen UR as well

Terrorist attack on New York and Washington affects people within Wageningen UR as well

Apart from practical consequences - postponed travelling to the US and elsewhere, and some Wageningen UR researchers being stuck in the US because they can't fly back to the Netherlands - the events of Tuesday 11 September have had an emotional impact as well. Many people find it strange to go on with everyday work, which suddenly seems of less importance.

Wageningen UR participated in the Europe-wide three minutes of silence last Friday to commemorate the victims of the attack, and the Dutch flag hung at half-mast that day. Letters of condolence have been sent to partner institutions of Wageningen UR in the US, offering any help that Wageningen UR could give. Jeanine Hermans and Henk Vegter of the Bureau of Student Affairs have contacted US students within Wageningen University to see if they are coping with the situation and to assist if necessary.

Different perspective

Professor Patricia Howard-Borjas, an American researcher in the field of gender issues at Wageningen University, says she was shocked at the attack. Yet she notes that Americans living in Europe might react differently than Americans in the States. The latter get less media exposure on perspectives of people from different contexts. "There is a strong contrast in perspective between CNN and BBC coverage and I actually prefer the latter, which has a much broader, global view. It is important to understand what is and has been going on in the Middle East, and CNN does not tell us. A better understanding is more likely to develop in Europe than in the US."

Borjas expresses concern that the issue might escalate into a crusade, not against terrorism, but against others who have nothing to do with it. "Terrorists hijacked the grievances of others. There is not enough debate in the US on this. And I would have liked President Bush to say explicitly that this is not a war against Islam or against the Middle East. The words he did use, like 'war, good versus bad and crusade', are not the kind of words that makes one confident." Borjas does respect the US right to defend itself, saying "it could have been me, or you, who was hit." Yet she says that the first political priority now should be to develop an international forum on conflict resolution. That should be an international cooperation effort to eliminate terrorism, based upon understanding the situation and complexities in the Middle East. Borjas says US policy in the Middle East and the creation of circumstances that give privileges to some in the world and deny them to others should be understood and taken into account. To reduce the causalities of terrorism, the causes of it should be taken away.

Borjas adds that some might be surprised that an American has the opinion she has. However, she says, it is diversity of opinions, plurality and respect for other cultures that has to be stressed now. "A message that is for Christians and Muslims alike."

Joris Tielens