THE PLANK SEPTEMBER 8, 2009
In Slate, Daniel Brook kicks off a multi-part series on Mohamed Atta's strangely ignored master's thesis in urban planning from the Hamburg University of Technology. The thesis was about the Syrian city of Aleppo, and Atta's plan to strip one of its neighborhoods of Western influences. Not surprisingly, Atta's Aleppo wasn't very female-friendly:
In Atta's Aleppo, women wouldn't leave the house, and policies would be carefully crafted so as not to "engender emancipatory thoughts of any kind," which he sees as "out of place in Islamic society."
Professor Machule told me he found Atta's reactionary plans for the neighborhood impractical but not objectionable. "He made a proposal for a design which seems to be from the 17th century," Machule said. "I would say this is not realistic, these are dreams. But why should young people not have dreams?" Atta's ideas about the role of women conflicted with Machule's sensibilities, but the professor said he saw the benefit of training a talented Egyptian who could bring Western urban planning techniques—if not Western architectural styles—back to the Arab world. When Atta refused to shake the hand of the lone woman on his thesis defense committee, Machule explained to her that he meant no offense by it, that this was simply his strict Muslim practice. Atta received high marks.
I'm looking forward to the rest of this series.