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Friday, July 1, 2022

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Terrorism 10 Years After 9/11

ViewPoints: Political science professor Dipak Gupta talks about the threat al-Qaeda and other groups pose.
By Lorena Nava Ruggero

The perception and understanding of terrorism — from the military to international governments to everyday American citizens —has changed substantially in the decade since the tragic events of 9/11, said Dipak Gupta, professor in the SDSU Department of Political Science.

“The world has changed in our understanding of terrorism – that is one of the biggest changes that I have seen,” said Gupta, who has written several books on the subject.

“For instance, right after the 9/11 attacks, I constantly had to talk to people and the first reaction would be ‘they are crazy’ and there would be many such myths about terrorism which really have been dispelled. There is a huge (amount of) literature now about terrorism itself. It’s so much information that people have become a lot more understanding; the general public has been lot more understanding of the dynamics that lead to terrorism.”

Al Qaeda still a threat

While al Qaeda has been virtually decimated in the 10 years since the 9/11 attacks, Gupta said they still pose a threat.

“Since then, al Qaeda has lost its capabilities of doing big things like hijacking four airplanes all at the same time,” Gupta said. “But there are al Qaeda-inspired groups and individuals who still threaten us … who are planning to do us harm, but not al Qaeda itself. This is how the world has changed.”

There are al Qaeda-inspired groups and individuals who still threaten us … who are planning to do us harm.

Social media's role in terrorism

And according to Gupta, inspiration is now only a mouse-click away.

“When al Qaeda began, the world didn’t have the Internet,” Gupta said. “Today, through the Internet, through Facebook, through social media, al Qaeda-inspired ideologies are threatening us in different ways.”

While al Qaeda-inspired individuals have most recently posed the greatest threat, from the “underwear bomber” to the attack on Ft. Hood, there’s another domestic threat that Gupta noted.

“We have to understand that it’s not only the Islamic terrorists that threaten us — what we saw in Norway is a harbinger of what can happen in this country from right-wing extremists.”

Future safety of America

So, how much safer is America today than it was then?

“To have a grand-scale attack is less of a possibility now,” Gupta said. “Not like the one we saw.”

Gupta also noted that several other things that made the attacks possible have changed, from more secure banking transactions that make it less easy to fund terrorism to the fact that the international community no longer tolerates terrorism.

“No country is willing to say that ‘oh yeah, it’s okay; I can support these terrorist groups because they confirm to my ideology,’” Gupta said. “People are a lot more intolerant of that in international communities... Organized governments are no longer acting as the protectors of terrorist organizations and terrorists.”

Editorial disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of San Diego State University or SDSU NewsCenter.