What is Terrorism?
"Terrorism" comes from the French word terrorisme, in turn derived from the Latin verb terreō meaning “I frighten” and referred specifically to state terrorism as practiced by the French government during the Reign of terror. Although "terrorism" originally referred to acts committed by a government, currently it usually refers to the killing of innocent people by a non-government group in such a way as to create a media spectacle. This meaning can be traced back to Sergey Nechayev, who described himself as a "terrorist", founded the "People's Retribution" in 1869. It was also used by the Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky in a book published in English as In Defence of Terrorism.
Terrorism is not new, and even though it has been used since the beginning of recorded history it can be relatively hard to define. Terrorism has been described variously as both a tactic and strategy; a crime and a holy duty; a justified reaction to oppression and an inexcusable abomination. A highly complex and constantly changing phenomenon, terrorism stands at the forefront of national and international agendas. Taking on many forms, terrorism is associated with a wide variety of groups and motivations. In simple terms, terrorism is the threat or use of violence for political, religious or ideological purposes designed to influence the attitudes and behavior of a group or to achieve objectives that are otherwise unattainable. Terrorism differs from other forms of violence in the choice of targets and modes of activity.
The word "terrorism" is politically and emotionally charged, and this greatly compounds the difficulty of providing a precise definition. Common definitions of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear; are perpetrated for a religious, political or, ideological goal; and deliberately target or disregard the safety of civilians. Some definitions now include acts of unlawful violence and war.
In November 2004, a United Nations Secretary General report described terrorism as any act "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act".
The EU has established a definition through the Framework Decision on Combating of Terrorism. It is defined as an offence under national law, which, given its nature or context, may seriously damage a country or an international organization where committed with the aim of: - Seriously intimidating a population, or
- Unduly compelling a Government or international organization to perform or abstain from performing any act, or - Seriously destabilizing or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organization.
Bruce Hoffman, a scholar, believes it is possible to identify some key characteristics of terrorism. He proposes that: by distinguishing terrorists from other types of criminals and terrorism from other forms of crime, we come to appreciate that terrorism is: •
Ineluctably political in aims and motives
Violent – or, equally important, threatens violence •
Designed to have far-reaching psychological repercussions beyond the immediate victim or target. •
Conducted by an organization with an identifiable chain of command or conspiratorial cell structure and •
Perpetrated by a sub-national group or non-state entity.
However, it can be identified from the phrase “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. There are three perspectives of terrorism: the terrorist’s, the victim’s, and the general publics. Terrorists do not see themselves as evil. They believe they are legitimate combatants, fighting for what they believe in, by whatever means possible to attain their goals. A victim of...
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