Wed, December 08, 2021


The problem in defining ‘terrorism’

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Andy Leitner made some interesting observations on Tuesday.

He is quite right to state that contemporary terrorism is heavily influenced by the spectre of Islam, or what some might call the Islamofascist elements of that religion. Moreover, if I recall rightly, the chimerical “all Muslims are terrorists” trope has been played in these pages before, and comprehensively trashed by some contributors, including myself.
He is also correct to state that the “great majority” of Muslims are peaceful. 
The same could also be true of Buddhists in, say, Myanmar, and indeed people of all faiths (despite the occasional bowdlerised distortions we find here). I also include atheists, most of whom would surely rather get on with everybody else than indulging in petty bickering as a presumed precursor to open war or low-intensity conflict breaking out. 
In a way, this is a debate about what we mean by “terrorism”. There are currently 200-plus definitions, which muddies the waters somewhat. A popular description is the orchestrated use of violence directed against civilians by non-state actors to achieve a political objective or bring about a desired outcome. 
However, when one also considers the promotion of terrorist activity by nation-state entities, this suggestion is blown out of the water, so to speak. In the final analysis, exercising terrorism – by anyone – is antithetical to civilised behaviour and is to be condemned out of hand. 
But let us not forget – one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.  
Other variants of prosecuting terrorism might include so-called “holy war”, which is an overtly political act. To loosely paraphrase the late Isaac Asimov, (political) violence (of any stripe) is the last refuge of the incompetent.
Dr Frank

Published : August 21, 2018