Vail Symposium focuses on al-Qaida |

Vail Symposium focuses on al-Qaida

Daily Staff Report
**FILE** This is an undated photo of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Kabul, Afghanistan. Henry Crumpton, a top U.S. counterterrorism official, said Saturday May 6, 2006, that parts of Pakistan are a "safe haven" for militants and Osama bin Laden was more likely to be hiding there than in Afghanistan. Followers of Osama bin Laden are flooding Islamic Web sites with pledges of allegiance Saturday March 10, 2007, it's believed to be the al-Qaida leader's 50th birthday. Like most things involving bin Laden, his exact birth date is unknown. The Virginia-based think tank says it's either today or July 30th. The FBI just says he was born in 1957. (AP Photo, File)

EAGLE – While the al-Qaida terrorist organization was actually formed nearly three decades ago, it didn’t really attain widespread public awareness until after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001. Despite continuous reports surrounding the group in the media, it is still hard to understand what the group is, who is involved, where they are and what it is they’re trying to do. Today, the Vail Symposium will address these timely questions. As part of the Symposium’s free Active Minds for Lifetime Learning series, instructor John Henderson will lead a discussion about al-Qaida, taking into consideration its historical origins, leadership, organizational structure, funding, recruits and impact on the world. The program will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Golden Eagle Community Center in Eagle.The Symposium partners with Eagle County and the Denver-based Active Minds for Seniors in order to provide experienced instruction to the Vail community. John Henderson is the co-founder of Denver’s Active Minds and a master teacher with 15 years of teaching experience. He received his undergraduate degree in history and geography from the University of California at Berkley and his master’s degree in teaching from the University of Chicago.

The start of al-QaidaIn the early 1980s, under the banner of Islam, Osama bin Laden began recruiting, training and financing volunteers to fight against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The volunteers were called mujahadeen, or holy warriors. They arrived by the thousands from mosques around the world and fought to defend fellow Muslims. In 1988, bin Laden formed al-Qaida, which means “the base” in Arabic, to continue the “holy war” beyond the borders of Afghanistan. The group’s stated aims are to expel all American influence from Muslim nations, to destroy Israel and to nullify all pro-Western authority around the Middle East. Bin Laden also wants to unite all Muslims in one Islamic nation, which would live in strict adherence to the rule of the first Caliphs. The program will explore bin Laden’s strong emphasis on jihad, or holy war, and consider the motivations and backgrounds of al-Qaida recruits.

Mobile terrorist groupOne of the reasons al-Qaida is difficult to pin down is because its infrastructure is small, mobile and decentralized. There are many leaders within the organization, some of whom operate in complete secrecy. Leaders monitor small underground cells which operate independently in an estimated 100 countries. The “Arab Afghans” that comprise these cells frequently don’t know the identity of other cells, nor of any but their immediate leader. To confuse matters further, al-Qaida has also forged alliances with many other radical and terrorist groups. There are also thought to be Islamic extremists that share the group’s fundamentalist views, and may act in the name of “al-Qaida,” although they do not receive funding or logistical support from the organization.

Active Minds for LifeThe Vail Symposium offers the Active Minds series to reach the community’s senior members, and provide impartial, wide-spectrum understanding to historical, timely, and sometimes controversial subjects. The series provides dynamic intellectual stimulation and encourages dialogue and engagement. While the goal of this series is to reach senior members of the community, these programs are popular and attended by all ages, free of charge.

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