Understanding 9/11: Why Did al Qai’da Attack America?

The attacks of September 11, 2001, were a seminal moment in modern history. They demonstrated the ability of non-state actors to inflict serious damage on the world’s greatest superpower and exposed the vulnerability of the entire global community to catastrophic acts of terrorism.

To understand the causes of the attacks, “Understanding 9/11: Why Did al Qai’da Attack America?” examines the phenomenon of terrorism, in general, and, more specifically, the radical ideology developed and propagated by Osama bin Laden through al Qai’da. The course considers why individuals are attracted to this ideology and how they radicalize to violence. It also explores the way in which the United States addressed terrorism prior to 9/11 and the policy challenges it (and its allies around the globe) faced in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.


  • Incorporated video discussions with content experts including Duke Muslim Chaplain and Adjunct Professor of Islamic Studies Abdullah Antepli, CNN Journalist Peter Bergen, and foreign policy consultant and author Jessica Stern; recordings available for future use at Duke.
  • Used videos that included group discussions of Duke undergraduate students who share their perspectives on difficult policy issues raised in the course.
  • Course videos used to supplement readings in Duke campus course.



  • Sanford School of Public Policy

Project Use:


Launch Date:

  • September 2013

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