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Defining The Concept Of Terrorism

Keywords: defining terrorism article, terrorism difficulty definition

The sensation of terrorism has turned into a major matter of the international community. It is increased to the most important foreign policy problem of the state governments. The terrorists' electricity is growing day by day. The new and faster settings of transport and communication technology have managed to get easier for the terrorists to reach their targets and strike them without the difficulty. It has magnified the threat of terrorism and managed to get more sinister than it has been before.

Although the menace is very dangerous and terribly impacting on our day to day lives, the says and even the academics have up to now failed to comprehensively define and create a consensus on the term 'terrorism'. The analysts face difficulty when it's considered that some varieties and classes of terrorism are justifiable whereas others are not.

This article can be an effort to emphasize the complexities in determining terrorism, also to find out some ways to attain at least a partial consensus among areas. This article is divided into four parts. The first part focuses on the definitional problems as far as the term 'terrorism' can be involved. In the next part an attempt has been designed to differentiate between 'terrorism' and 'independence fighting'. The 3rd part handles the changing meaning and nature of terrorism over a period of time. And the previous part talks about some practical approaches to reach a incomplete consensus over the definition of 'terrorism'.


Who will explain terrorism? A sufferer condition or a society, a stronger state, any international or regional firm, or the Super Vitality? Terrorism is a relative term and expresses different meanings to differing people. To Israel terrorism means when a suicide bomber blows himself up in market place. To Palestinians, it means when Israeli troops bulldoze a house or photograph stone-throwing kids. India views Pakistan sponsored militancy in Kashmir as terrorism. Alternatively, overwhelming most the Kashmiris calling it freedom fighting with each other and resorts to the use of brutal force by the Indian troops as condition terrorism.

Terrorism may also be properly or sometimes incorrectly used as a synonym of rebellion, insurrection, guerrilla warfare, coup d'etat, civil strife, or any of many other related conditions that produces fear or terror. A lot of the times, such lackadaisical and random use of the term could make the understanding of the specific so this means and nature of terrorism more murky and complicated.

Although the books on terrorism offers lots of definitions, most of them give a very narrow eyesight of the idea of terrorism. While some view terrorism in politics terms, others insist that it should be described in legal terms. Still some think that it is related with morality. Certainly, academics' works on terrorism have helped understand the problem, but their efforts have not materialized to create a consensus among the list of political circles. The academics themselves are divided on the particulars of the idea.

Experts on terrorism, such as, E. V. Walter, Offer Wardlaw, Leonard Weinberg, Steven Spiegel, Thomas Mathieseu and Richard Overy have all identified terrorism in the politics context. (See Field 1). To them, terrorism is principally a sophisticated assault, politically exploited by a group or business with a spiritual, ideological or ethnic appeal.

Box 1: Meanings on terrorism

Terrorism is a 'process of terror' having three elements: the act or threat of violence, the mental reaction to extreme fear on the part of the victims or potential victims, and the sociable results that follow the assault (or its risk) and the consequent dread. (E. V. Walter: 1969)

'Political terrorism' is a sustained policy relating to the waging of arranged terror either on the part of the state of hawaii, a activity or faction, or by a little group of individuals. (Offer Wardlaw: 1982)

Terrorism is a politically enthusiastic crime intended to modify the patterns of a market. (Leonard Weinberg: 1989)

Terrorism is the utilization of violence by a person or group, made to create extreme stress in a goal group larger than the immediate victims, with the goal of coercing that group into achieving certain political demands. (Steven Spiegel: 1995)

Terrorism is violent and arbitrary action consciously aimed towards civilians, with a political or ideological goal pretty much clearly at heart. (Thomas Mathieseu: 2002)

Terror is not an organization or an individual force. It is related to a number of politics confrontations, each of which should be understood in its conditions. (Richard Overy: 2004)

However, political biases increase challenges in defining the word because of its subjective mother nature. The subjectivism is captured in a popular stating that 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter', for whom terrorism is a determined technique of the weak contrary to the strong and established authority. The problem is how can one escape this relativist enmesh?

Similarly, the US STATE DEPT. in its annual document, called, 'Patterns of Global terrorism', defines terrorism as "politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience. " The condition with this explanation is that it does not clearly describe 'non-combatants', and the perpetrators, based on the definition, are non-state actors (sub-national groups and clandestine brokers), while exclude the 'condition terrorism'. Additionally, the interpretation of 'politics motivations' is very broad.

Some intellectuals have tried out to define terrorism in legal terms and consider it a criminal action. J. Dugard records that when a person commits an take action which threatens the steadiness of other areas or undermines the international order, he ceases to be a political offender and becomes a criminal under international legislation, like the pirate or hijacker.

But the condition with legal meanings is that they completely ignore the political areas of violence. Treating a terrorist as a criminal undermines the legitimacy of politics violence. In other words, the political idea in any terrorist activity can't be discarded, which, again, becomes the major way to obtain confrontation to reach a global consensus on the definition of the word 'terrorism'.

The moral connotations of terrorism have further divided professionals between 'right' and 'incorrect'. Do all the countries take moral ideals uniformly or there are different patterns and orders of priority? Furthermore, nowadays of ability politics, where areas give priority to their national interests, exactly what will be the extent of romance between moral worth and power? The common observation is the fact areas are unwilling to give equal status to non-state actors which task their power, and make an effort to offer with them sternly by using brutal drive.

There are five major problems in determining the word 'terrorism' and creating a consensus. The first major problem experienced by the academics and even the countries in defining terrorism is the relativist enmesh of the concept. For one this is a freedom fighting, while for the other it is terrorism. This aspect in defining the word has made the task more difficult.

Second problem is related to the contents of this is. If it's described as assault up against the innocent people or non-combatants for achieving various goals, the use of the term, then, becomes too extensive. It is very difficult even to determine 'non-combatants'. Imagine if a soldier is not on the battlefield or he's performing peacekeeping tasks under the aegis of the UN, attacked by the suicide bomber of your warring faction? Or would the terrorist harm on the U. S. Pentagon Building on September 11, 2001, not meet the requirements as terrorist work? Furthermore, the indiscriminate use of violence will not include those who use terrorism against specific focuses on, such as, politics assassinations.

Third, when it is referred to dispersing fear on the list of audience, one cannot distinguish between terrorism holds out by anybody, group or organization, and their state itself. This is also a problem in defining terrorism that the explanations portray non-state actors as terrorists, while completely ignore terrorism perpetrated by the state of hawaii. Instead, it is called as the gross violation of real human rights. It is also a fact that the incumbent political regimes have used terrorism as a way of repressing elements in their populations they view as a danger, real or imagined, to the continuation of the rule.

Amalendu Guha emphasizes that the recent use of power hegemonism by certain global nations, can be regarded as 'state terrorism', in the sense that its symptoms, tendencies and activities as well as results are, either the same, or, similar to the terrorism launched by fundamentalist beliefs or ideologies. Both are anti-human, anti-social and frightful. The annals is filled with the tragic situations, where state, rather than protecting its individuals, has unleashed reign of terror and is becoming in charge of their annihilation. The truth is that the state terrorism has killed more people when compared with terrorism by non-state stars.

Fourth problem in defining the term is if the take action of terrorism sometimes appears in terms of historical continuity or every incidence is recognized as a unique ever sold and handled separately. Those that have confidence in the historical continuity, review this phenomenon since the French Revolution. They insist upon the unity of terrorism throughout ages. Others view each action a unique and absolutely not the same as the previous one. Therefore the rivalry is between the two extremes.

Fifth problem in defining terrorism is: whether any work of assault should be analyzed by considering means or ends. As all ideologies sanctify the ends that every mean is justified. The ideological indoctrination compels the terrorists to the righteousness of their cause also to justify any violent means to accomplish it. On the other hand, many researchers believe that the unethical means could also question the legitimacy of the reason.

It is because of the above-mentioned problems in defining the term 'terrorism', that making differentiation between 'terrorism' and 'flexibility fighting' is becoming very hard. However, there are some aspects that assist distinguish between a 'terrorist' and a 'freedom fighter'.


It is a well-known proven fact that the subjectivity of the word 'terrorism' has made it very difficult to tell apart it from 'flexibility fighting'. In this process, another difficulty is which varieties of violence should be recognized as legitimate and which should not.

Martha Crenshaw opines that cutting edge assault and terrorism are two different phenomena and should not be lost with each other. The activities of freedom fighters cannot always be termed as 'terrorism', because their concentrate on is the repressive federal government.

John Gearson boosts some essential questions: What, if anything, is authentic dissent using violent means? When is being a flexibility fighter acceptable? Labeling any group terrorist is very difficult particularly if the same group becomes the part of the negotiation process, and the government authorities have to hint peace handles them. Nelson Mandela himself has provided perhaps the most satisfying answer to this perennial question. Pointing out that lots of people once described as terrorists are leading government authorities today, Mandela says: While you do well - people are ready to accept you and have dealings to you as mind of state. You become a terrorist if your aims and objectives fail.

In my estimation, the distinction between 'freedom fighting' and 'terrorism' must be made due to the legitimacy of the motion for independence, acknowledged by the UN. Article 1(2) of the UN Charter identifies the right of self-determination of the peoples. It emphasizes the respect for the theory of equal rights and self-determination of the individuals

Article 7 of the "Definition of Hostility" used by the General Assembly in 1974 authenticates the right of self-determination. It states:

Nothing in this meaning, and in particular Article 3 (which gives an inventory of the works that are regarded as hostility) could at all prejudice the right of self-determination, independence, and self-reliance, as derived from the Charter, of peoples forcibly deprived of this right and referred to in the Declaration on Concepts of International Law concerning Friendly Relationships and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes or other forms of alien domination; or the right of these peoples to struggle to that end and seek and obtain support.

Similarly, Article 12 of the "International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages" (1979), which arrived to make on June 3, 1983, plainly recognizes the means utilized by the people for their right of self-determination. It says:

[The] Convention shall not apply to an action of hostage-taking determined throughout armed conflicts as defined in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Protocols thereto, including armed conflicts brought up in article 1, paragraph 4, of Additional Process of 1977, in which peoples are preventing against colonial domination and alien profession and against racist regimes in the exercise of these right of self-determination, as enshrined in the Charter of the US and the Declaration on Rules of International Rules concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among State governments in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

The liberation activities are deprecated as terrorists by the government authorities against that your struggles for independence are conducted. While analyzing the independent movements in Kashmir and Palestine, one may disagree within the means; it is beyond any question that both movements are identified by the UN. Terming these moves terrorist could also undermine and question the legitimacy of the UN itself. So, you can say, here, that the motions for 'independence fighting with each other' are those movements whose legitimacy is identified by the UN.

Besides this, in both the situations, the role of status is very repressive and brutal. Both India and Israel have illegitimately occupied the land of the Kashmiris and the Palestinians respectively. Moreover, both states, since the inception of disputes, have been constantly denying the right of self-determination to these folks. For this, they also have completely ignored the UN resolutions.

So, if anyone calling struggle moves in Kashmir and Palestine as terrorists, it not only refutes the UN resolutions, which give right of self-determinations to the oppressed countries, but also legitimizes the energy of the strong in the weak. Regarding to Moulaye el-Hassen, the past Mauritanian Ambassador, "The term terrorist could not be held to use to persons who were denied the most elementary human protection under the law, dignity, independence and freedom, and whose countries objected to international occupation. "

Now the question develops how come there no consensus on the definition of terrorism? The most convincing reason is that this is and dynamics of terrorism have frequently been altered over a period.


The insufficient consensus among the nations on the definition of terrorism has triggered a continuous change in its mother nature and meaning. Relating to Jonathan White, the surge of modern terrorism in the Western is from the struggle for flexibility in the Western World in the 1700s and early 1800s when most Europeans did not enjoy flexibility, and America was still only an test. A change in social perceptions and activities, however, revolutionized the machine and framework of Western government authorities. Many varieties of violence followed the have difficulty for democracy; terrorism was one of them.

The popular use of the term 'terrorism' occurred through the French Revolution. Contrary to today's usage, terrorism at that time was seen in a positive framework. The Jacobin's 'reign of terror' was simply a politics in nature, which was a deviation from the old sacred terrorism. Also, that terrorism was unleashed by their state to safeguard the Revolution based on 'Liberty, Equality and Fraternity'.

The terrorism during French trend provided a model to the other revolutionary groups in European countries to utilize it as a strategy to change their societies as they wished. But the failure of the 1830 and 1848 revolutions compelled the revolutionaries to improve their strategy. However, the use of pressure to bring any revolution remained the main weapon as a result of revolutionaries.

The 19th century witnessed the surge of nationalist motions, which struggled up against the colonial forces for the self-government. Although nationalists implemented violent methods to achieve their aims, unlike anarchists, they considered themselves flexibility fighters. Anarchists were socially isolated, however the nationalists could expect the likelihood of better support. Governments tagged them terrorists, but nationalists observed themselves rather as unconventional military preventing in a patriotic battle. They opted only the practices of anarchists.

During the inter-war period, a new form of terrorism surfaced in European countries, known as 'Right-wing terrorism'. The goal of this terrorism was to maintain the status quo. There were two critical indicators, which contributed to the surfacing of Right-wing terrorism in Europe. First, the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, which offered assurance to the socialist actions in other Europe to bring a possible change in their societies as well. So, such movements were considered a great danger by the respected governments and the elements which wished to maintain status-quo. A second factor was the establishment of fascist government authorities in Italy and Germany during the same period. They justified assault by uprooting the communists and anti-nationalist elements in their societies.

The prominent form of violence in the post-War period, targeted at either de-colonization or interpersonal trend, was rural-based guerrilla warfare. The major success stories were those of Mao-Tse-tung in China, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, and Fidel Castro in Cuba. But there have been also less publicized failures. Guerrilla insurgencies were defeated in Greece, Malaya, and the Philippines. In a few of these instances, both successful and unsuccessful, terrorism was employed by those groups chasing nationwide liberation (Vietnam) or sociable trend (Greece).

During 1960s and 1970s, the planet witnessed this immediate upsurge in the proper execution of Left-wing terrorism. This confused professionals on politics terrorism, who found terrorism as a new and unprecedented phenomenon, something that was essentially a reply to injustice. This supposed that the concentrate was on to address the root causes of terrorism, which could be political, economical, social or religious grievances.

The end of Freezing War was followed by an eruption of religious terrorism in a sizable volume of countries, particularly in the centre East, South and Central Asia. The Soviet disintegration provided an creativity to the Islamic motions specifically in South and Central Asian parts to start an organized offense against their individual state governments to: 1) seek independence; 2) capture the state apparatus; and 3) replace the old communist system with the new Islamic order. The vacuum, that was created because of the Soviet disappearance, also provided plenty of solidarity among the Muslims around the globe as it gave them a self-assurance that these were the main pressure behind the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Furthermore, the American don't Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, put into the already existing politics chaos. Out of the situation, the Taliban surfaced as an structured political make with the support of Pakistan and also to some degree Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan under the Taliban became a place for socializing Islamic radicals from all over the world.

The Saudi-born millionaire and Afghan battle veteran, Osama Bin Laden, was one of these who took refuge in Afghanistan under the Taliban administration. He previously resentments against the Saudi Royal family for permitting the People in america to remain on the holy dirt following the Gulf Warfare in 1991. As his criticism up against the Royal family got severe, he was compelled to flee Saudi Arabia. His nationality was cancelled. The stateless Osama then moved into Sudan. But under the U. S. ' pressure, Sudan expelled him in 1996. Then he transferred to Afghanistan, where in fact the Taliban federal government was recently proven.

To run the state of hawaii equipment, the new authorities badly needed financial assistance, which was provided by Osama and his organization, Al-Qaeda. As a result, Osama's influence on the Taliban management increased. In a unique sense, Afghanistan became a terrorist-sponsored state. Taking advantage of his effect, Osama not only set up links with other militant teams in Pakistan, Egypt and other Muslim countries, but also posed himself as a highly religious figure, who could issue a fatwa (Islamic ruling). In 1998, he given a fatwa, proclaiming, "To kill People in the usa and their allies, both civil and military, is an specific duty of each Muslimuntil their armies, shattered and broken-winged, depart from all the lands of Islam, incapable of intimidating any Muslim. " Since that time, some terrorist attacks can be viewed on the U. S. civil and armed forces installations. The September 11 catastrophe could be observed in this interconnection, though Al-Qaeda did not take the responsibility from it.

The Sept 11 occurrence has further evolved this is and aspect of terrorism. The occurrence has characterized terrorism as transnational with religious orientation. The purpose of these groups is not only to overthrow their respected governments, but also to establish a worldwide expert on the basis of their own spiritual interpretation.

Today, terrorism has become very lethal and dangerous. Technical changes in the fields of transport, armed service and communication have added to the strength of terrorists. In that situation, it is indispensable to advance a consensus, at least partial one, over this is of terrorism.


The world has now came into a 'New Age group of Terrorism. ' Three important factors verify this hypothesis. First, the terrorists include fatal weapons and complex technology at their disposal. Second, the religious orientation has compelled them to trust the rightness of the cause. In other words, the ideology and reason behind the terrorist group or organization attracts the terrorists to join it. Third, the transcendence of countrywide limitations has further complicated the issue.

In the occurrence of such rising threats, it's important to evolve an operating explanation with little disagreement. Though it is extremely problematic for the nation expresses to bargain over their countrywide interests, still there has to be some starting point since there is almost a consensus among the list of states that the modern transnational spiritual terrorism is the major hazard to the globe peace and stableness.

To begin with, it is the responsibility of the academics to provide some basic roadmap which can help the claims reach a consensus on the definition of the word 'terrorism'. First, the academics' job is not to label any individual or an organization as terrorist but to objectively review circumstances which compel the weaker to have arms contrary to the stronger. In doing so, we consciously or unconsciously put all the flexibility fighters into the group of terrorist, as well even as we also question their legitimacy. This must be considered that a freedom fighter can be distinguished from a terrorist based on the legitimacy and mass support to the business and the reason. If these factors are absent, then a person or an organization can be referred to as a terrorist.

Second, claims must stop defining the term on their own, because the condition begins when two rival claims or people define terrorism by themselves and believe in the authenticity of that definition. In contrast, they should discuss and question this problem in the UN, specifically in the General Assembly, to attain a consensus.

It must be noted that there is no universal meaning of terrorism that may be put on every take action of political assault. Besides, every work of violence should be examined individually, while keeping in view the motivations of the perpetrator. It means that there must not be any generalization. While examining any violent function to be qualified as terrorism, pursuing aspects need to be considered:

If the motives are abstract, signifying if any individual or a group seeks to commit violence with the purpose of achieving goals based on spiritual interpretation of its own.

If the have difficulty is transnational in character, meaning impacting the political, communal and economical life of the other country.

If the have difficulty is not identified by the UN.

If the assault is not targeted at contrary to the repressive federal government.

If the prospective is innocent people who have nothing to do with the government policies.

So, if any violent activity fulfills any one or all the five aspects, is highly recommended as terrorism.


As reviewed above, today's terrorism is unique from the past terrorist activities and tactics. The emergence of transnational spiritual terrorism, in conjunction with the progression in military services, communication and transport technologies, has increased the energy of the terrorists and intensified their brutalities.

Despite all such known dangers and hazards, the planet community continues to be far from attaining a consensus on the definition of terrorism. The disagreement between 'one man's terrorism, another man's flexibility fighting' remains. A collective and mechanized work for the international community is needed to triumph over this relativist entangle. A genuine knowledge of the phenomenon can only just be achieved if it is considered beyond the propaganda purposes, and concerted work are made to discuss and analyze this menace at international community forums, with the thought that terrorism is equally threatening the calmness and steadiness of the whole world.

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