Terrorism is defined by the U.S. Department of Defense as “the unlawful use of — or threatened use of — force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives.”
The definition of the term in the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics (2nd edition) begins:
Term with no agreement amongst government or academic analysts, but almost invariably used in a pejorative sense, most frequently to describe life-threatening actions perpetrated by politically motivated self-appointed sub-state groups. But if such actions are carried out on behalf of a widely approved cause, say the Maquis seeking to destabilize the Government of Vichy France then the term ‘terrorism’ is avoided and something friendlier is substituted. In short, one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.
“Terrorism is the premeditated, deliberate, systematic murder, mayhem, and threatening of the innocent to create fear and intimidation in order to gain a political or tactical advantage, usually to influence an audience.”
All these definitions of terrorism give rise to some pertinent questions as to what is terrorism and what is not and after all why people resort to such extreme steps to attack and kill their own fellow human beings here and there. Also these explanations create bit of confusion as to whose acts shall be labeled acts of terrorism and whose acts are not to be branded with this tag. The very last line of Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics is the evidence of the existing ambiguity and the vagueness of this term terrorism.
Going by the history of this word one finds that It was coined during France’s Reign of Terror in 1793-94. Originally, the leaders of this systematized attempt to weed out “traitors” among the revolutionary ranks praised terror as the best way to defend liberty, but as the French Revolution soured, the word soon took on grim echoes of state violence and guillotines. The oldest terrorists were holy warriors who killed civilians. For instance, in first-century Palestine, Jewish Zealots would publicly slit the throats of Romans and their collaborators; in seventh-century India, the Thuggee cult would ritually strangle passersby as sacrifices to the Hindu deity Kali; and in the eleventh-century Middle East, the Shiite sect known as the Assassins would eat hashish before murdering civilian foes. Historians have traced recognizably modern forms of terrorism back to such late-nineteenth-century organizations as Narodnaya Volya (“People’s Will”), an anti-tsarist group in Russia. One particularly successful early case of terrorism was the 1914 assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serb extremist, an event that helped trigger World War I. Even more familiar forms of terrorism—often custom-made for TV cameras—first appeared on July 22, 1968, when the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine undertook the first terrorist hijacking of a commercial airplane.
There are six different types of terrorism which experts have identified: nationalist, religious, state-sponsored, left-wing, right-wing, and anarchist. Sadly the likes of Al-Qaeda, Tamil Tigers, Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and handpicked to be the qualifiers of the tag terrorist organizations while many in the world are doing more heinous acts quite unreservedly but the terrorist is not labeled against their names and this is really an unjustifiable act. This is something which needs a rational and critical attention from the world body. Unless the world body erases the prevalent unjust policies that are sympathetic towards the non-Muslims and inconsiderate for the Muslims, the fight of against terrorism can not be justified and won even with the use of forces.
Every day there is violence in Palestine and Kashmir lead by Israeli and Indian occupying forces respectively, suicide attacks and bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands of people have been killed in these attacks over the years but still no statement has come from any country of the World let alone terming these attacks as acts of terrorism. This reaction is of grave concern for all the sufferers and people with conscience.
The current situation briefly explains what the word terrorism means to the world. Terrorism means any act of violence, intimidation and bombing and for a worldly meaning affix USA, UK and other western countries to the dictionary meanings. After the incident of 9/11 terrorism is the most frequently used word by the heads of state of different countries. Every President and Prime Minister’s speech is incomplete without the use of word Terrorism and that to by pin pointing towards Muslims.
If history is to be believed the present Super power was the one who bombed Japan, invaded Vietnam, Cuba, Yugoslavia, and Bosnia and add Afghanistan and Iraq to the list. At that time USA never thought about the victims, the causalities which its attacks caused. But the moment 9/11 incident happened USA started chanting anti-terrorism slogans, vowed to go all out to curb terrorism by hook or by crook. This is racial discrimination at its very worst. And the agony was that they got the support of almost all the countries from different parts of the world including Pakistan which took upon itself to play an active role at the cost some of its own vital interests, while its neighboring country India preferred to wait, watch and act cautiously and wisely.
The administration in Pakistan forgot all what USA had done with them in the past and became the non-NATO ally and that too by brushing aside the national interests. Pakistan went all flat to give USA every possible support at the cost of its sovereignty.
None else but USA who supported, encouraged and armed the Talibans through its own protégé Osama bin Laden who was planted in Afghanistan some years back 1980s’ to fight against Soviet Union, who invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan acted as the front line state at that time with Gen Zia ul Haq at helm of the power. The super power provided every possible support be it monetary or in the form of arms and immunities to help them beat Russia, and they did just that and ousted Russia from their country. This particular incident lead to break up of USSR into the present Russian Federation and the revival of number of central Asian republics. At that point in time no qualms were made about the Extremism and Militancy not even Terrorism because USA was not at the receiving end.
Who can forget the shelling of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 during the Second World War; again USA was the first one to use nukes and now has come up with the Terrorism mantra. The nukes used destroyed the two cities of Japan turning them into ashes. But when Pakistan tested its nuclear missiles it met with certain regulations, economic sanctions, trade restrictions and what not, strangely India escaped, despite testing nuclear missiles, because of the vested interests of the USA and western countries have in India. Then comes the invasion of Vietnam and Cuba, supporting Israel and NATO on their incursion of Palestine and Yugoslavia respectively. The world has ignored these instances as if they do not cover the parameters of Terrorism, that too defined by United States.
The moment USA thought it does not require the services of Taliban and Al-Qaeda they came all the way to Afghanistan to destroy them. Thousands of civilian were shot dead by the bombings and air strikes of the coalition forces. This act was permissible because the Super Power was doing it and it was to put terrorism to task by using terror campaign. To their surprise there was strong resilience shown by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar still at large.
The Super Power has always vetoed any resolution presented against Israel in the Security Council as well as at all other international forums, supporting them all the way. Israel has killed hundreds of thousands of people in Palestine but no action has been taken against them. Also the use of force by India in the Indian held Kashmir for over 50 years is not being labeled as terrorist act. India has openly denied the UN resolution to give Kashmiri people their right of choosing but that action too has been ignored. The extremists in India even martyred Babri Mosque in Ayodhia, Gujrat back in 1992 killing hundreds of Muslims, but sadly to date this act has failed to qualify for using the tag of Terrorism to this vandalism.
The above mentioned incidents and events leads to an understanding that the use of force is not terrorism unless and until it is not against USA and western countries and only Muslims comes under this tag of terrorist. The list of most wanted men has all the Muslims as if non-Muslims are innocent beings. Add to the agony all the Muslim countries supported this US tag of extremist which is associated with Muslims only.
What this scribe fails to understand is what is wrong with Muslims of the world and the Muslim countries at large? Why despite of knowing everything they have closed their eyes? Why they are forgetting their own identity and submitting themselves to enemies of Islam? Where is the sovereignty? Where is our faith? We all know there is just one Supreme power Allah Almighty so why become victims of the worldly powers? These are the question of which all the concerned Muslims want answers.
The Muslims all over are fighting against terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Bosnia, Chechnya, Yugoslavia and Kashmir and wherever there is use of force against them. Their freedom struggle should not be labeled as acts of terrorism and extremism; this really is unfair by all means. Even if the world has to label them then still they should first clear the vagueness and ambiguities created by the explanations of the word terrorism. And if these definitions are to be followed then world bodies like United Nations, ASEAN, Commonwealth, G-8 and G-5 should come up with few other names of the organizations which happen to be non-Muslims. Only such courageous and valiant move can justify their stance on eradicating terrorism and extremism at all cost and at all levels. But denial of the few will not help their cause a great deal.