When we hear the word terrorism or we think of violent extremists, we can all too easily conjure up images of destruction and death that have resulted in acts of terrorism all over the world. Most vivid for many of us are the images of 9/11, when violent extremists carried out a mission designed by an extremists group known as Al-Qaeda. That was America’s horrific wake-up call.
As our incredible trio of guests at the Paley Center on Tuesday night (watch a clip below) reminded us, jihadists and acts of violent extremists from many different religions had been going on for some time in countries all over the world. Governments have been largely inept in their efforts to combat this growing wave of extremism, especially among the youth who saw so little to live for that they strapped bombs to their bodies and blew themselves up, along with many others.
In the face of this violence, and the anemic response from too many governments, new visionaries are stepping forward to seek a more peaceful way. Dr. Edit Schlaffer, the founder of Women without Borders, is one of them. A sociologist by training, who lives in Vienna, Austria, Schaffer witnessed these acts of terror in countries all around her and felt she had to do something. She created Women without Borders, an international advocacy organization that links women who are dealing with the impact of violence, either as victims or as the families of those who committed violent acts, together to heal. Dr. Schlaffler believes that grief and suffering resulting from acts of terrorism are felt on both sides of every violent act, that women needed a place to speak about what was happening and to help each other find new ways to forgive and new ways to fight back against the extremist ideas that were destroying their families and other families and communities.
Dr. Schlaffer was accompanied by Aicha el-Wafi, the mother of Zacarias Moussoui, who was presumably the 20th hijacker in the September 11th attacks, but was arrested in August, and Dr. Abdul Haqq Baker, the Imam at the Brixton Mosque in London where terrorists were radicalized. Their intimate experiences shed so much life on the personal side of these public tragedies.
Attendees of TEDWomen last year also had the tremendous opportunity to see Aicha el-Wafi speaking in person with Phyllis Rodriguez, an artist, teacher and social justice activist, whose son Greg died in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Check out their moving bond:
And stay tuned for more announcements about how we’ll be exploring these themes in our upcoming TEDxWomen event, December 1.