New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman was traveling in the Middle East when he saw what he called a sign of hope: a young boy, wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap an an Osama bin Laden t-shirt.
Friedman said the boy symbolized potential change in the Middle East.
“It is our job to do what we can so that more of those young people grow into the hat and not the t-shirt,” Friedman said.
Friedman spoke of the challenges to overcoming terrorism in the Middle East and described the causes of the region’s unrest in front of a packed audience in Luce Hall Thursday afternoon. The speech was sponsored by the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, and attracted a crowd so large that the auditorium and two overflow rooms were filled by the time his speech began.
Friedman spoke of his personal journey since Sept. 11, 2001, in which he searched for the hijackers hoping to learn the answer to a question — “Who were those guys?”
Friedman described “the boys of 9/11″ as part of a hierarchical, cult-like organization with Osama bin Laden at the top. The hijackers were unequipped with the skills for modernity, Friedman said, and simply “sat around.”
“And the wheel of bin Laden just goes around and around like a big cement mixture churning out ‘sitting around people’ … who drift into the rolodex of bin Laden,” Friedman said.
He categorized some of the hijackers as “the Europeans,” Muslims who were radicalized during their encounters with the West. Living in some European countries, many Muslims felt isolated and some found asylum within groups that preached radical ideology.
“America is an imperfect melting pot,” Friedman said, “but we do aspire to be a melting pot. Europe does not aspire to be a melting pot.”
Friedman said the cause of Sept. 11 was not poverty of money but poverty of dignity.
Many Muslims began to feel contempt after being humiliated, Friedman said. He used a computer analogy to describe Islam as “God 3.0,” compared to Christianity, “God 2.0,” and Judaism, “God 1.0.” When “God 2.0″ and “God 1.0″ are experiencing more prosperity than “God 3.0,” resentment surfaces from similar feelings of humiliation, he said. Bin Laden provided the answers many Muslims were looking for, telling them that “God 1.0″ and “God 2.0″ were responsible for the state of the Islamic world.
But Friedman said Christian and Jewish societies had progressed because of secularization. He said he supported a similar secularization of the Islamic Middle Eastern Nations.
Friedman also suggested other remedies for the situation.
“The first thing we need to do is bring to justice the people responsible for 9/11,” Friedman said.
More important than killing the perpetrators is killing their destructive ideology, he said. Americans have to be the best global citizens they can be in an attempt to stop the flow of these bad ideas.
“People will listen to criticism, if we convey a sense that we are inviting them into our future,” Friedman said. “But if we come to [them] dripping with contempt, people will shut their ears.”
Friedman also spoke of addressing the “open wound” of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Friedman broke down the highly complicated Middle Eastern situation into small packets of easily understandable information, Amelia Shaw EPH ’03 said.
Anne Gilbert, the wife of a Yale staff member, praised Friedman’s perspective.
“He’s able to speak to people on all sides of an issue, in all different walks of life, so I think he gives a more balanced representation of the issues,” Gilbert said.