Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass professor hosts question-and-answer discussion for students on Syria and the Islamic State

Daniel Maldonado/Daily Collegian)
(Daniel Maldonado/Daily Collegian)

Political science professor Vincent Ferraro presented a question-and-answer discussion for students on Syria and the Islamic State Tuesday night, hosted by the political science honors society Pi Sigma Alpha.

Students filled room W-11 of Machmer Hall for Ferraro’s hour-long informal chat, which covered the origins of the conflicts in Syria and the rise of the Islamic State.

Ferraro, who is an expert in post-Cold War international relations, said that few people understand what is really going on in Syria and Iraq. He outlined five major current wars in Syria including the Syrian Civil War, the war against terrorism and the battle over access to natural gas in the Middle East. Ferraro joked that because the conflict in Syria has many underlying causes, the students might not leave the discussion with any more clarity about the situation.

Ferraro also spent time discussing the Islamic State’s current condition. He explained that the Islamic State seeks to establish a caliphate for radical Islamists, but he believes that as long as it supports terrorism outside of its borders, it has no path to becoming a legitimate nation-state. Other countries will always respond in the face of terrorism because inaction would be “suicide,” Ferraro said.

He added that the United States’ efforts to cut off the Islamic State’s oil supplies have successfully diminished its wealth. Previously, the Islamic State could offer fighters a salary of 400 euros per week. Money has since become far less available.

However, lack of wealth does not deter terrorist attacks abroad, Ferraro said. Terrorist attacks are inexpensive to carry out, as the recent bombings in Brussels demonstrated. Ferraro said that there is “no real cure” for terrorism short of eliminating civil liberties altogether.

Students asked questions throughout the event, ranging from the role of climate change in the Syria conflict to the threat that Islamophobia poses in the United States.

Ferraro referred to climate change as the underlying source of the Arab Spring and its subsequent conflicts. Global warming also necessitates the mass movement of people and is a major cause of political instability. Currently, the Middle East is experiencing its longest drought in 900 years, he said.

“We’ll keep seeing people moving all across the planet, and the hostility that this engenders is only going to get worse,” Ferraro said.

One student asked about the seriousness of Islamophobia in the United States and Europe. Ferraro answered that historically, racist and xenophobic sentiments grow whenever people feel insecure.

“But of course we have hope,” he said. “My God, you can all say something (about racism and xenophobia).”

Ferraro concluded that he is encouraged by the younger generations and the new “global civic culture” that encourages the exchange of ideas around the world. The Internet and study abroad help young students form connections and understand the world around them, Ferraro added.

“My advice to your generation is to learn how to disagree well. There are going to be differences among people and problems to be solved, but they need not lead to violence.”

Hannah Depin can be reached at [email protected].

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  • D

    David Hunt 1990Mar 24, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Another example: In Brussels, a teacher tweeted that his Arabic children cheered at the bombings. The police showed up… to tell HIM to watch what he tweeted. A German woman’s son was assaulted gang-style; she called the cops who told her that nothing would happen. More and more police across Europe are quietly admitting they’ve been told to turn a blind eye.

    When governments put foreigners above their natives, that’s a recipe for civil war.

  • D

    David Hunt 1990Mar 24, 2016 at 3:35 pm


    Did you hear about the 10-year old boy in Austria who was anally raped by one of these “immigrants”… so badly he had to be hospitalized?

    The mother, who is an immigrant from Serbia, taught her son tolerance. No longer. Europe’s peoples are going to go, and soon, from zero to jackboot pretty quickly. Immigrants are going to start turning up dead.

  • R

    RJMar 24, 2016 at 9:29 am

    These UMASS professors never change. It’s so boring and intellectually dishonest to only provide one point of view. This has been going on for 50 years at least here. Climate change as an underlying cause of the current conflict? That is Obama propaganda never heard anywhere but from the President’s mouth and on college campuses. No one in the Middle East has ever proclaimed such a thing.

    Obviously, David Hunt knows the root cause. But beyond that, it is the intense tribalism and thousands of years of hatred/intolerance of anything unknown. The simple fact that the Sunni and the Shia (who proclaim everything in the name of the same religion) are mortal enemies tells you everything you need to know about the Middle East. Then throw in a terribly restrictive culture without sex (except for the rich guys who fly to Dubai to drink/carouse with hookers at the Western hotels), booze or enjoyment of any kind and it’s an obvious recipe for disaster.

    Oh, wait, come to think of it, climate DOES have something to do with it. After everything mentioned above, when it’s over 100 degrees every day, people are pretty much pissed off all of the time! Then don’t create a society with 1 billion people in a freakin’ desert!

    If Islam is indeed the peaceful and tolerant religion those in the West (mostly non-Islamists) proclaim it to be, it begs the question about whether it is practiced in the Middle East is at all legitimate.

    I do not share Mr. Ferraro’s optimism that the young people of the world will see any benefit from this new-found tolerace. Tolerance and a “global civic culture” are wonderful utopian concepts unfortunately only being practiced on college campuses in North America and in some Scandanavian countries. Boy, isn’t Sweden learning their lesson quickly with virtually every single rape in that country perpetrated by the very people to whom they opened their arms, hearts and wallets!

  • D

    David Hunt 1990Mar 23, 2016 at 11:58 am

    “Climate change” is a driver? That alone should tell you this guy’s a MORON.

    What’s the driver? A seventh-century pedophile warlord whose predations spawned a religion that has – as its end goal – the subjugation of women into sexual chattel and the extermination of anyone who does not believe.