WEB A VALUABLE TOOL FOR EDUCATION, RESEARCH
Author(s): MICHELLE JOHNSON
Date: September 27, 2001 Page: C6 Section:
Business Ashow of hands: How many of you tried
to call up a major news organization's Web site on Sept. 11 and
found yourself staring at a page that wouldn't load?
News sites were overwhelmed in the hours after the attacks on
New York and Washington. They were forced to scramble to add server
capacity to handle unprecedented traffic spikes. Apparently, they're
still not ready for prime time when it comes to delivering breaking
news of this scale. On the other hand, the Web served as a key
outlet for folks who exchanged information and shared their grief
through postings in numerous online forums and chat rooms. E-mail
delivered the news that friends and loved ones were OK, as well as
many first-hand accounts from those who glimpsed ground zero.
There's another way the Internet can be invaluable during
this crisis: research and education. Two weeks ago, many of us would
have been hard pressed to find Afghanistan on a map. Daily news
accounts are now filled with unfamiliar terms. Most of us know
little about the cultures of the people appearing on our TV screens,
in the newspapers and in radio reports.
Online there's a wealth of information that can shed some
light. If you're starting from scratch, look at sites such as
islam101.com, islamicity.com (click "Education Center"),
religioustolerance.org/islam.htm, or "About Islam and
Muslims" (www.unn.ac.uk/societies/Islamic), which cover the basics in a simple
These sites explore Islamic practices, culture, peoples, and
history in-depth. Did you know that only about 18 percent of Muslims
live in the Arab world? Or that Indonesia is home to the world's
largest Muslim community?
Pop quiz: What does the word "jihad" mean? If you responded
"holy war," you only get partial credit. At islam.about.com/cs/jihad, you'll find links to Web sites that examine the
broader definitions of the term, which essentially means to "strive
for a better way of life."
How much do you know about the Taliban? At channel4.com/plus/Afghanistan, a site devoted to "Beneath the Veil," a
documentary by filmmaker Saira Shah, you'll learn that Taliban is
the plural of the word student, how the group rose to power, and
more about the history, geography, and people of Afghanistan. CNN,
which recently aired the documentary, has put together a site (cnn.com/CNN/Programs/presents) that includes a photo gallery, video, and
At nationalgeographic.com, you'll find links to maps, audio,
a photo essay that revisits the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan in
1996, and a look at the resistance.
Click on "Islam" at beliefnet.com for an essay on the rise of fundamentalism, a piece
titled "What Kind of Muslim is Osama bin Laden?" and writings by
Muslim Americans on the anti-Muslim backlash occurring around the
country. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (cair-net.org) is
keeping a running tally of anti-Muslim incidents as well as posting
links to news stories related to Islamic issues.
And speaking of bin Laden, PBS' Frontline recently re-aired
an updated piece called "Hunting Bin Laden," (pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/binladen) that takes a closer look at the
man and his organization. The site includes video of a 1998
interview with bin Laden. Infoplease.com's special section on
terrorism (www.info please.com/spot/01terrorism.html) will bring you
up to date on bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and US and international policies
The Web has long served as an outlet for expression of a wide
range of opinion - good, bad, and ugly, on message boards, in chat
rooms, and through e-mail discussion lists.
Whatever your views, a visit to these forums can be
eye-opening. But be forewarned: These sites are not for the
faint-hearted. Among the sometimes eloquent, heartfelt and honest
commentary, you'll find people spewing a lot of racist and downright
wacky opinions as well.
Try the news sites: abcnews.com (click "boards" under
"interact"), cnn.com ("message board" under "resources"), WBUR's the
connection, theconnection.org ("The Forums"), msnbc.com
("Opinions"), cbsnews.com ("message boards") for a sampling of
current public opinion.
Portal sites such as islamicity.com and islam.about.com carry news and analysis from varying
If you're looking to learn more about Muslim and Arab
Americans, type "Muslim American" or "Arab American" into the search
box at yahoo.com for an extensive list of related links to groups
and organizations. If your focus is on the Middle East, the Web site
of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas
at Austin (link.lanic.utexas.edu/menic/) is indexed by country and covers everything from
arts and culture to news and current events.
Look for special links and sections on the search engines
(yahoo, google, lycos, altavista, and northernlight) for many more.
History and current events have shown that ignorance can be
fertile ground for hatred and violence. As we all struggle to make
sense of what happened on Sept. 11 and the aftermath, let's arm
ourselves with a little knowledge, too.
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