Terrorism, risk and religious tensions

17th May 2013 at 01:00


The ultimate penalty

A legal document from ancient Babylonia (in present-day Iraq) contained the first known death penalty laws under a code written in the 18th century BC. Twenty-five crimes were punishable by death, including adultery and helping slaves to escape, but murder was not one of them.

In 14th-century England, a person could be executed for a crime as trivial as disturbing the peace. Three centuries later, when the first colonists arrived in what is now known as America, they brought the British penal system with them. Treason was punishable by death, as was murder, rape, heresy and witchcraft.

Britain abolished the death penalty in 1965, except for crimes such as treason and piracy, and it was abolished entirely in 1998. But the death penalty still exists in 32 US states. Methods of execution and the crimes subject to the penalty vary by jurisdiction. In 2012, 43 inmates were executed in America and 3,146 were on death row.

According to the Amnesty International charity, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. But in 2012, 58 countries imposed death penalties and 21 countries were confirmed to have carried out executions.


- Consider terrorism throughout history with Daryn Simon's presentation. What is terrorism, what are the consequences and how might it be prevented? bit.lyTerrorism Debate

- Challenge preconceptions about terrorists with a lesson from the 911 Education Programme. bit.lyDealing WithTerrorism

- Stimulate a debate about capital punishment and encourage students to investigate a range of personal and religious views. bit.lyDebatingDeath


Dead certainties

What are the chances of being killed by a shark? How about being struck by lightning? Or, perhaps most terrifying of all, being the victim of a terrorist attack?

Challenge and entertain your students by using data to calculate risk and to see how often things go fatally wrong.

Take, for example, a tandem skydive, where you are strapped to an instructor and jump out of a plane at 10,000ft for 45 seconds of free fall at 120mph. Statistician David Spiegelhalter, writing in the UK magazine Radio Times, estimated that the risk of the jump was around 7 micromorts, a micromort being the unofficial name for a one-in-a-million chance of death. He calculated that it was the same as riding 40 miles on a motorbike, 100 miles on a bicycle or running a marathon.

Spiegelhalter then worked out that a middle-aged man like him had around a 7,000-micromort risk of dying within the next year, so the skydive would make little difference. "Off I went happily and jumped out of the plane," he wrote. "Or more accurately, was pushed." He is now saving up to swim with sharks.


- Students consider risk and consequence in Colin Billett's activity on statistics and the probability of risk. bit.lyProbabilityofRisk

- Have fun with probability using games and puzzles from TESConnect mathematics expert Craig Barton. bit.lyProbability Games

- Evaluate the impact of terrorism and explore possible solutions in an activity-packed lesson focusing on identity cards. bit.lySolutions ToTerrorism


Conflict of the faiths

Despite the 911 terror attacks and the recent Boston bombing, relatively little religious conflict has taken place in the United States, even though it is so religiously diverse.

With the arrival of Europeans, many of whom were fleeing religious persecution, diverse religious groups established themselves in America, colony by colony. Anglicans populated Virginia, Puritans settled in Massachusetts and Quakers put down roots in Pennsylvania.

But in the time around the Revolutionary War (1775-83), fierce fighting took place between religious groups. In 1771, a Virginia sheriff grabbed a Baptist preacher from the pulpit, delivering 20 lashes with a horsewhip. In the 1840s, gun battles broke out between Native Americans and Irish Catholics in Philadelphia, quelled only by martial law. At the end of that century, a wave of anti-Semitism began to grow in the US, reaching its peak during the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Today, Islam has surpassed Judaism as the US's second largest religion. After 911, the Federal Bureau of Investigation found that anti-Muslim sentiment had spiked. Hate crime against Muslims grew by 1,600 per cent on the previous year.

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