Controversial assignment requires college students to look at 9/11 from a terrorist's perspective

An assignment issued by a teacher at Iowa State University has sparked quite a bit of controversy.

The project, which was obtained by The College Fix, requires students to "write a paper that gives a historical account of 9/11 from the perspective of the terrorist network."

"In other words, how might al-Qaida or a non-Western historian describe what happened," the assignment states.

The description acknowledges that the attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001 were "heinous," it encourages students to see the events "from other perspectives."

The university defended the proposal for the 500-word essay assignment.

"As you can see, the assignment was in no way an attempt to diminish the tragic events of September 11, 2001," an ISU spokesperson told The College Fix. "Nor was it designed to support the goals of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations."

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The dust and ash that caused illnesses after 9/11
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The dust and ash that caused illnesses after 9/11
The remaining tower of New York's World Trade Center, Tower 2, dissolves in a cloud of dust and debris about a half hour after the first twin tower collapsed September 11, 2001. Each of the towers were hit by hijacked airliners in one of numerous acts of terrorism directed at the United States September 11, 2001. The pictures were made from across the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine
394261 78: Civilians take cover as a dust cloud from the collapse of the World Trade Center envelops lower Manhattan, September 11, 2001. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
This file photo dated 11 September 2001 shows Edward Fine covering his mouth as he walks through the debris after the collapse of one of the World Trade Center Towers in New York. Fine was on the 78th floor of 1 World Trade Center when it was hit by a hijacked plane 11 September. Americans mark the fourth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks Sunday nagged by new burning questions about their readiness to confront a major disaster after the debacle of Hurricane Katrina. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
394261 63: Dust swirls around south Manhattan moments after a tower of the World Trade Center collapsed September 11, 2001 in New York City after two airplanes slammed into the twin towers in an alleged terrorist attack. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Office towers of Lower Manhattan in New York's financial district engulfed in smoke and dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings. (Photo by James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images)
A man in a clothing store along lower Broadway in New York arranges a shirt in the window as clothes covered in dust and soot from the World Trade Center disaster sit on racks September 19, 2001. The attacks in New York and Washington left more than 5,000 people dead or missing and over 300 police and fire fighters were believed lost in the September 11 attack. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach MS
A group of firefighters walk near the remains of the destroyed World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. Two hijacked U.S. commercial planes slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center early on Tuesday, causing both 110-story landmarks to collapse in thunderous clouds of fire and smoke. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton JC/SV
A group of firefighters stand in the street near the destroyed World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. Two hijacked U.S. commercial planes slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center on Tuesday, causing both 110-story landmarks to collapse in thunderous clouds of fire and smoke. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton JC/SV
An office filled with dust and damage has a view of the wreckage of the World Trade Center 25 September, 2001 in New York. Search and rescue efforts continue in the aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attack. AFP PHOTO/Eric FEFERBERG (Photo credit should read ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
Graffiti for victims of the World Trade Center are written on windows covered in dust from the collapse 22 September 2001 New York. War appeared imminent as the United States stepped up the deployment of military forces south and west of Afghanistan, the base of Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, who is pinpointed as the chief suspect in the deadly September 11 terrorist onslaught on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. AFP PHOTO Eric FEFERBERG (Photo credit should read ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
398760 04: This image captured by a satellite on September 12, 2001 shows an area of white dust and smoke at the location where the 1,350-foot towers of the World Trade Center once stood in New York City. Terrorists slammed two hijacked airliners into the twin towers on September 11, killing some 3,000 people. (Photo by Spaceimaging.com/Getty Images)
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The spokesperson said the assignment is similar to the vital work being performed in our nation's diplomatic and intelligence operations, like the CIA or the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

The class instructor is James Strohman, who has taught multiple political science and public administration courses for the 10 years he has worked at ISU, according to his biography on the university's website.

The online description of the class states that the assignment was given during the first week of class and was worth a total of four points.

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