The True Definition of Terrorism

With terrorism dominating the world’s agenda, the definitions of terror, terrorist, and terrorism assume a whole new importance. Many counties define terrorism, draw up terrorist profiles, and publish lists of terrorist organizations in the light of their own national interests. “Terrorist organizations” to some countries are freedom fighters to others. What one country sees as “terrorist nations,” another welcomes as “loyal allies.” Therefore, who defines terrorism? Who decides—and how do they decide—what a terrorist is? To establish a criterion, one an pont out two distinct characteristics of terrorism:

a) Targeting civilians: Any occupied country has the right to resist an army occupying its territory. But if that resistance includes attacks on civilian targets, any justification ceases to apply, and terrorism begins. This definition is entirely I accord with Islamic rules on war. The Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) commanded his followers to do battle against those who declared war on them. But he also ordered them to never regard civilians as targets. On the contrary, every Muslim was ordered — and still obliged — to take great care to ensure the safety of non-combatants.

b) Destroying Peace: If no state of war exists, then terrorism can also include attacks on military or official targets. Attacks intended to break down peaceful relations between countries or communities are acts of terrorism, even when aimed at military targets.

All attacks that threaten peace, or that are aimed at civilian targets, even in a state of war, are terrorism. There can be no question of defending, approving or justifying such attacks. There can be no question of defending, approving or justifying such attacks. However, such violence is very widespread in the modern world. That’s why any war on terrorism needs to be wide-ranging. Its every stage should be carefully planned, with its final aim the total eradication of the entire concept. That, in turn, required individuals in every nation to totally distance themselves from terrorism. Every form of terrorism must be un-equivocally condemned—whatever its cause or aims, no matter what its targets, where it arises, or how it is carried out.

Similarly, anyone sincerely opposed to terrorism should show the same empathy for the thousands of innocent victims it has slaughtered—not only at the World Trade Centre, but in attacks in Japan and Spain, in East Turkistan and Indonesia, in the massacre of more than half a million Hutus in Rwanda, in the murder of defenseless people in Palestine, Israel, and all across the globe.

Once, every form of terrorism is fiercely condemned, then no longer will its perpetrators receive support from any country, or be allowed to seek shelter inside its borders. Quite literally, terrorists will have nowhere to hide.

9 thoughts on “The True Definition of Terrorism”

  1. i am a student of mass communication i need some literature
    review on the topic(coverage of terrorism in
    leading national newspapers)

  2. the civile ware started in pak. from the rong use of plitical game. the westurn use, the government ,agianst the people.
    ather wise this muslim groups handreed years a go was in
    pakistan nothing happind.

  3. @Shakir: True, but I think you’re describing effects instead of root causes. Mis-distribution of wealth is the problem. The very rich man hired the guys to build the bungalow for HIM, not for them. They got pocket-change out of the deal, a fraction of the home’s value, a slow death. Writer James P. Hogan clued me in to the fact that a society is on a slippery slope when ownership is rewarded more than labor. The gap between rich and poor widens, resentment builds.

    Going to war to solve this problem is just piling more problems on top of the old ones, which are: the failure of management to keep their masses from “teeming” in the first place (better lifestyle=fewer children), and the anger they created among them by their greed, PLUS the new batch of hatreds they’re cooking up with a new war, ultimately solving nothing.

    The dangers of a war, a real one, at this time are too great to risk; we have to find a better way.

  4. James: Terrorism is also caused by poverty (the Maoist/Naxalite movement in India is an example of this). Another cause is occupation of a territory by brute force (Kashmir by India, for instance). Also, while it is true that the “filthy rich” are also responsible for poverty (and, therefore, terrorism), they are also responsible for scientific and technological progress, as well as the redistribution of wealth. A very rich man decides to build a bungalow (although he has no need for it). His decision ultimately provides employment to a number of people who would have otherwise been unemployed and attracted towards anarchy. One reason countries go to war is to provide employment to their teeming masses. In many countries the army is the biggest employer.

  5. You could also say that any self-generated “terrorist” is merely responding in kind, because the origin of terrorism lies in the establishment of authority, which is inherently terroristic; authorities everywhere hold their populations under control ultimately by threat of force.

    Mankind is currently divided into 200-some “sovereign” nations, each of which is ruled by a government, military, police–all of the above–that authorizes itself to put to death anyone from within or without who threatens its existence. There’s your origin. The perpetuation of these systems is a guarantee of resistance because the ruling cadres invariably avail themselves of higher quality and amounts of goods and services, a better lifestyle, at the expense of their populations, thereby de-legitimizing their “right” to authority. They are parisitic and generate resentment among the disenfranchised which ultimately leads to resistance in kind–the use of deadly force.

    The concept of alienation comes to every human when we discover that we’re either boy or girl, like half of mankind and unlike the other half. I maintain that this is the origin of group identification and the consequent ease with which we learn to associate with some and not others, and form exclusive groups which eventually become identifiable as “nations.” We as a species are blighted with a long history of nothing else, at least nothing that we can remember, and as we write it is as pronounced as it has ever been, so the thought of any other arrangement seems to draw a blank. But another system of human organization must be found, or the existence of privileged ruling groups will always be a goad to the disenfranchised, some of whom will be driven to redistribute the wealth by force.

    It is likely that a very Spartan or ascetic ruling body could minimize, if not de-fuse, popular resentment of the rich by the poor. A set of laws, applying to all citizens, that limit every citizen’s–from “top” to “bottom”–so-called “carbon footprint” and number of offspring might do it, but what a bitter pill for the greedy. They’ll just HAVE to cheat, won’t they?

    If it weren’t for terrorists, what would you have written about?

  6. @ Ijaz

    This is a beautiful article written by Commoner. However, you seemed to have wasted no time in resorting to accusations and have directly and indirectly spoilt the whole article.

    Directly because your comments appear on the same page and indirectly because you may have just opened the floodgates for lots of Pakistanis and Indians to come here and start accusing each other.

    Guess you can sit back and enjoy the fun now…

  7. Eyejaz

    “India in Afghanistan has absolute malicious intents and most of the happening in Pakistan are either funded or sponsored by them. If the world ignore it knowingly is regrettable.”

    Many apologies for the inconvenience caused. The Indians perhaps are only returning the many favours bestowed upon them by Pakistan, lest they be accused of being greedy and ungracious.

    It would be deeply regrettable if your goodself were to doubt the basic definitions of terrorism and the teaching of the prophet as posted above due to this Indian over eagerness to please you.

  8. All the above definitions and explanations to the terrorism would have only been correct, had these been encompassing the world at large. ironically it is only limited to the poor masses of Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. Terrorism in the context of Pakistan needs to be redefine as the definition under review would appear prejudice. India in Afghanistan has absolute malicious intents and most of the happening in Pakistan are either funded or sponsored by them. If the world ignore it knowingly is regrettable.
    I am afraid if this menace is not addressed quickly, it will have devastating effects on the institutions, economy, inter-provincial harmony and above board the national image. I request to all the leaders with a reminder that our country was created with lot of sacrifices and now we are the custodians, lets make it and not break it for Penny as even millions and billions of dollars will not be able to buy you one word and that is my nation is—————– PLEASE PONDER AND BECOME HERO OF HISTORY OR MEER JAFFAR & SADIQ.

  9. I am the student of M.Phill,& research on(terrorists & pakistan contribution of war against terrorism).So i need some data according to this topic


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