What Was Al-Qaeda?

This lesson goes along with the What Was Al-Qaeda? Gallery.

Lesson Type(s) Grade(s) Description

Social-Emotional, Language Arts, Service, Social Studies

3rd, 4th, 5th

Discuss al Qaeda and then research the difference between its version of Islam and what is widely believed.

Activity Prep Materials Heart Badges


Lined paper, Pencils

Human Rights


EXPLAIN: The terrorist group that organized the 9/11 terror attacks was called Al Qaeda. They were led by a man named Osama bin Laden. They believed in a very different version of Islam than most Muslims. Today, we’re going to learn about Al Qaeda’s version of Islam and how it’s different from Islam that is practiced around the world.

DEFINE: Extremist: an extremist is a person who has extreme ideas about politics or religion, and publicly supports strong action.

DISCUSS: Is there something that you believe? Does someone you know think differently about the same thing?

EXPLAIN: Just because you believe something different doesn’t mean the other person is an extremist.




INSTRUCT: We are going to learn more about Al Qaeda and Islam.

  • Create a t-chart. One side should be Islam and one side Al Qaeda.
  • Visit the 9/11 Lesson Gallery “What Was Al Qaeda”: https://911lesson.org/what-was-al-qaeda/
  • Create a list of things that Al Qaeda believes versus Islam.
  • Share with the group.


  • How are the two groups different?
  • How did Al Qaeda twist Islam to let it allow them to do what they wanted?

EXPLAIN: Just because people do something for a “good reason” doesn’t always mean that it’s a good thing. Throughout history, people have used good ideas to justify doing bad things.


  • Do you know anyone who has used a good reason to justify doing a bad thing?
  • How can you think critically to identify when this happens?
  • How can you help them understand that they are doing bad things?


DISCUSS: 9/11 made some people prejudiced against Muslims. How can you help them understand that Al Qaeda was different to help them get over their prejudice?