Facing the "Barbarians" After the Attacks: A Public Forum


The Markaz (Arts Center for the Greater Middle East) invites you to participate in a public forum and panel discussing the recent attacks in Baghad, Beirut and Paris that took place on November 12 and 13, 2015, and the western responses and discourse on these attacks, with respect to Daesh, Islam, and what officials and media mean when they use terms like “barbarians,” “terrorism” and “we will win the war.” 

The panel consists of Muslim activists Hussam Ayloush (Council on American-Islamic Relations, Southern California) and Ani Zonneveld (Muslims for Progressive Values) and USC French and Middle East-specialized academics Olivia C. Harrison and Edwin Hill. It will be moderated by USC assistant professor Veli N. Yashin. There will be a public dialogue followed by breakout groups, to further and more intimately discuss our reactions and prescriptions on how as a society we progress after such attacks. The Markaz happens to agree with Egyptian critic, film historian and Cairo International Film Festival president Magda Wassef when she says, in response to the attacks, “Culture and civilization is the only way to preserve humanity…This is a war not between Islam and Christianity, but between civilization and barbarity.” 

Space is strictly limited and reservations are strongly recommended to guarantee your seat; reserve below or call 323.413.2001 during regular office hours (M-F, 10 am – 6 pm). Event schedule as follows: Mixer 6:30-7:30 pm, panel begins promptly at 7:30 pm; breakout groups (optional) at 9:00 pm. Free to the public, donations are welcome. Food and drink available. This program cosponsored in part by LA Jews for Peace/Progressive Conversations on Israel/Palestine and US Middle East Foreign Policy. 

Questions may include:

• Many Muslims reject actors of Daesh, the so-called Islamic State, and repudiate the insurgents’ right to call themselves Muslim. How should we interpret Daesh if not as a Muslim phenomenon?

• While many Muslim organizations condemned the Paris attacks, some critics insist Islam has something to do with these attacks. Is there perhaps a need for self-reflection and criticism within the Muslim community?

• The majority of the Paris attackers were French or Belgian citizens, how then does French society “win the war” against “the barbarians”? (The term “barbarians” is particularly troubling—that is what the Romans called the natives of North Africa, the Amazigh, better known to the west as Berbers; the term comes from Barbar...)

• While there is no question that the attacks whether in Baghdad, Beirut or Paris were “barbarian” in nature, it is unclear exactly who is masterminding and funding these attacks. If (worst-case scenario) the attacks were brainstormed by Daesh with CIA trainers and Saudi money, then what kind of a world are we living in?

• Regardless of who was the mastermind of the Paris attacks, the attackers were in fact young Muslims who had been radicalized primarily in Europe. How and why are Islamic leaders being successful at radicalizing and recruiting them?

All participants are invited to a mixer to break the ice and meet all the participants, 6:30-7:30, at which point the discussion will begin, as follows: 

1. Moderator introduction 5-10 minutes
2. Panelists present, about 10 minutes each
3. Moderator interviews panelists 15 to 20 minutes
4. Q & A with the audience 15-20 minutes
5. Audience and panelists split up into five groups, with each person on the panel supervising a breakout group. One person in each group take notes on the group’s key points or realizations; someone in the group volunteers to present those points when the groups come back together into one audience.
6. Groups reassemble for report-backs.


HUSSAM AYLOUSH, a native of Syria, has been the executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, Southern California since 1998. He has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the needy enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. He has appeared on many local, national and international media programs including CNN, MSCNBC and NPR, and written for local and national news outlets including the LA Times, the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and various newswire services on American Islamic issues. As someone whose own close family members include Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Mormons and Jews, Hussam is an active member of various interfaith groups promoting pluralism, dialogue, understanding and cooperation among America’s and our world's diverse faith communities. He is a member of the West Coast Muslim-Catholic Dialogue and the Abrahamic Faith Peacemaking Initiative. He is currently serving as the National Chairman of the Syrian American Council, an organization that supports democracy and human rights in Syria. 

ANI ZONNEVELD is founder and President of Muslims for Progressive Values. Since inception, Ani has presided over MPV’s expansion to include chapters and affiliates in Los Angeles, Washington DC, Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Columbus (OH), Ottawa and Toronto, Canada as well as Paris, France, Chile and Australia. She has organized numerous interfaith arts and music festivals, participated in many interfaith dialogues and is a strong supporter of women and LGBTQ rights. She is the brainchild of Literary Zikr – a project that counters radical Islam on-line and co-editor of MPV’s first book, an anthology titled Progressive Muslim Identities – Personal Stories from the U.S. and Canada. Ani is a singer, songwriter and producer and is the first woman to release an English Islamic pop album in the U.S. Ani performs Islamic wedding services for mixed faith and gay couples and in 2006, she was named a Muslim Leader of Tomorrow by the American Society for Muslim Advancement. Born in Malaysia, Ani, a Muslim since birth, she spent a good portion of her formative years raised in Germany, Egypt and India as an Ambassador’s daughter. Her exposure to different politics, religions and cultures has shaped her inclusive worldview. 


OLIVIA C. HARRISON is Assistant Professor of French, Italian and Middle East Studies at USC. Her research focuses on Maghrebi and Beur/banlieue literature and film; diversity in postcolonial France; the historiography and memory of colonization in France and Algeria; women and war in the Middle East and North Africa; anti- and postcolonial theory; Islam and the West; and translation. Her first book, Transcolonial Maghreb: Imagining Palestine in the Era of Decolonization (Stanford University Press, 2016), analyzes the representation of Palestine in Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian literary works and public debates from the 1960s to the present. She is at work on a new book that charts the emergence of the Palestinian question in France, both in political and intellectual discourses and in artistic works. Co-editor of Souffles-Anfas: A Critical Anthology from the Moroccan Journal of Culture and Politics (Stanford University Press, 2016), Harrison has translated essays and poems by Adbelkebir Khatibi, Abraham Serfaty, and Abdellatif Laâbi.

EDWIN HILL is Assistant Professor of French, Italian and American Studies and Ethnicity at USC. His research seeks to highlight the marginalized intellectual and cultural dialogs of the black Atlantic diaspora that have taken place, and continue to take place, in France. Hill has published and/or presented on contemporary Caribbean writers, Sub-Saharan francophone literature, African-American popular music, French chanson, and francophone hip hop. Similarly, his teaching interests, while focused on black vernacular culture and France, extend from the poetry of Negritude writers to postcolonial explorations of contemporary francophone writers and musicians. His current book project is Black Soundscapes White Stages: The Meaning of Sound in the Francophone Black Atlantic. At USC, Edwin Hill created “Project Banlieue: French Peri/Urban Cultures and Crises” promoting interdisciplinary scholarship about the riots in France in 2005 and 2007.  


VELI N. YASHIN is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at USC. His focus is 19th and 20th century Arabic and Turkish literatures and cultures; late-Ottoman cultural and intellectual history; the post-Ottoman world; area studies and literary scholarship; conceptions of authority and sovereignty; legacies of German romanticism; histories and future(s) of philology; Mediterranean studies. He holds a Ph.D. in Arabic and Comparative Literature from Columbia, and is the winner of the 2013 Horst Frenz Prize of the American Comparative Literature Association. His current book project is tentatively titled Disorienting Figures: The Rhetoric of Sovereignty between the Arab and the Turk.

  • December 03, 2015 at 6:30pm – 9:30pm
  • The Markaz, 5998 W. Pico Blvd LA 90035
  • $5.00 USD
  • Rime Yasin


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