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The Concept of Terrorism



By Basil Hijazi, New Age Islam

(Translated from Urdu by New Age Islam Edit Bureau)

21 December 2017

Like civilization, globalism, culture, extremism, nationalism, gender and generation, terrorism also has connotations that emanate from the European Modernism. It is the essence of Age of Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution, which has informed the intellectual horizons of Europe and the entire West in recent years.

If you are looking for a specific definition of terrorism, I will disappoint you for the following reasons. First, the purpose of this column is not to find any unanimously accepted definition of terrorism. Second, I do not agree with the literal definitions and derivatives, which usually aim merely at the inclusion of new reflections. Third, there is a huge difference between the past and the recently globalized definitions of Terrorism.

Most of the literary genres of Terrorism demonstrate that an effort of presenting an accurate definition of Terrorism was made in 1934. Hardman defined it this way, “This is the method or the theory behind the method whereby an organized group or party seeks to achieve its avowed aims chiefly through the systematic use of violence”. (J. Hardman. “Terrorism”, in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, 14 New York. Macmillan 1937, pp. 5)

However, till date, many researchers, scholars, people, groups, and even governments could not explain its unanimous definition. Consequently there is a plethora of definitions that, if counted, will cross two hundreds. This has created the difficulty of epistemology for the researchers, rather than solving their problems.

Terrorism is a form of political-social warfare. Since the war has been the most important element of this form since the beginning, so terrorism in the long-term globalization can be considered the second most important form of this war. The concept of terrorism will become broader and deeper due to the technically influenced global factors.

Although there are many historical examples of the terrorist events, the modern form of terrorism emerged in the mid-nineteenth century. The English word "terror", just like the French terreur, actually derives from the Latin word “terrere”. Historically this word was used in 1795 after the French Revolution, for describing the activities of the Jacobin Club (or Club des Jacobins) of Maximilien Robespierre. Club des Jacobins itself popularised this word for its praise. The period between 1789 and 1799 was considered the “Reign of Terror”.  However Edmund Burke who was the staunch opponent of the French Revolution and Terrorism used the word “terrorists” in a description of the new French government called ‘Directory’.

The 9/11 attacks on the United States and the consequent long and complex factors have given a new direction to the topic of political terrorism, while the organizations such as ISIS, Boko Haram and Jabhat al-Nusra have further increased the complexity of the new international relations.

History of terrorism is very long but research on this topic is still new. This important topic of research has increasingly spread in the past three decades, yet no unanimously accepted definition of terrorism has been made. The economic and social means of spreading terrorism is very weak. In the context of globalization, this understanding of terrorism is not reasonable or at least it does not have even the rank of centralization.

Historically, the first attempt at legal and political debate on terrorism was made by the League of Nation in 1937. This was mainly for defining global terrorism. However, there was no progress in this regard due to ideological conflicts. The matter was then left to the United Nations that too could not afford to play any prominent role. Although there were twelve international resolutions in this regard; the first resolution was passed in Tokyo in 1963, which was associated with prevention of pirate attacks and with the security of The Civil Aviation, after which other similar resolutions were passed.

However it appeared as if the 9/11 attacks on the United States threw stones in a still pond. Several resolutions were then passed, including the United Nations Security Council resolution 1368 adopted unanimously on 12 September 2001 for prevention of terrorism, and then the Resolution of 28 September 2011, in which the United States was openly and unrestrainedly allowed to use force against terrorists.

American Philosopher and Linguist Noam Chomsky says: “It’s close to a historical universal that the term “terror” is used for their terror against us and our clients, not our terror against them. Heads of states can qualify as “terrorists,” when they are official enemies.”

It is true that the plethora of laws based on vague definitions were made in the name of counter-terrorism. Then they were used to threaten terrorism and silence people, repudiate the personal liberties or suppress opposition. The war against terrorism has turned the fear and espionage of people into a veritable industry; which has disturbed human values such as trust and brotherhood.

The personal and democratic freedoms of people are mostly affected in the terror-affected countries. That is, the war against terrorism demands sacrifices for personal liberties and democratic values that are the basis of globalization in the West.

In this war against terrorism, it is important to take care of the freedom of people. More significantly we should keep the concept of terrorism away from resistance in order to prevent the possibility of both these terms acquiring vague and obscure connotations.

URL of Urdu Article:دہشت-گردی-کا-مفہوم/d/113598


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