Defining Terrorism Term Paper

Pages: 15 (4573 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 30  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Terrorism


Encyclopedias and dictionaries define terrorism in the easy to understand language but in reality it is a concept that is hard to grasp. In the last two decades terrorism caused more damage to the world then anything else. Especially after 9/11 the word terrorism was being redefined. Despite differing definitions terrorism, is considered a crime in most of the countries. Statutes of different countries have different version of the definition of terrorism.

Looking up a dictionary we would find the definition in the simplest form. For example, the American Heritage Dictionary defines terrorism as "The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons" (Wikipedia Encyclopedia).

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Different academics have also worked on the definition of terrorism and they agreed on this definition of terrorism. "Terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby - in contrast to assassination - the direct targets of violence are not the main targets. The immediate human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a target population, and serve as message generators. Threat- and violence-based communication processes between terrorist (organization), (imperiled) victims, and main targets are used to manipulate the main target (audience(s)), turning it into a target of terror, a target of demands, or a target of attention, depending on whether intimidation, coercion, or propaganda is primarily sought" (Schmid, 1988)" (UNODC).

TOPIC: Term Paper on Defining Terrorism Assignment

Differences on Definition: The world community today disagrees on the definition of terrorism. A conference for Iraqi reconciliation was sponsored by the Arab League in Cairo in which Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders participated. The debate was also made on the definition of Iraq and according to the communique the definition of terrorism included 'resistance' as a 'legitimate right.' The term resistance got fierce criticism from the West which called it a right only to kill soldiers in Iraq but also innocent people belonging to rival sects. Critics in U.S. accused the convention to exclude U.S. soldiers from their list of protected people while attacking citizens and humanitarian, civil, government institutions, national resources and houses of worship were considered the act of terrorism.

The differences on the definition of terrorism were again seen at the occasion of Barcelona Euro-Mediterranean Summit. Here European Union leaders and Arab representatives disagreed on the matter of definition. European Union leaders refused to recognize a definition which by any means endorsed killings in the name of resistance.

The attempts by UN, Euro and even Arabs to arrive at a concise and acceptable definition failed miserably. In times when no place in the world whether it be Islamic or Western is safe from the menace of terrorism. It is hard to define and fathom yet efforts are needed to be made to stop this spate of violence that has engulfed the planet earth and its inhabitants. All nations and UN condemns terrorism but the consensus on the definition is hard to achieve.

UN Stance on Definition: Definition of terrorism at United Nations became a cause of conflict. United States and its key allies including UK wanted organizations like Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to be included in the definition of terror for the U.N. Comprehensive Anti-Terror Convention. On the other hand Arab States represented by Organization for Islamic Conference wanted UN to recognize some outfits running freedom movement against Israel not as terrorists. The debate and differences on the definition of terrorism started at the start of the 60th anniversary session of the U.N. General Assembly. The definition of terrorism is important because a consensus of different nations and world bodies on its definition would eventually facilitate the co-operation in fight against terrorism. In the absence of a consensus on definition some countries would adopt a different definition and it might provide some violent groups the freedom to operate and work on their hidden agendas. In the presence of the conflict in the Middle East and now in Iraq organizations like OIC support what they call struggle against foreign occupation and colonialist and racist regimes by all means, including armed struggle to liberate their territories. "According to Victor Comras - a career diplomat who served as a top aide to Secretary of States Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell - the OIC is putting forward such language in an effort to get itself "wiggle room" to continue to support terrorism when convenient - particularly against Israel. The same language can also be used to legitimize violence by Abu Musab Zarqawi against U.S. forces in Iraq" (The Washington times 2006). United States therefore has a stern position and is not willing to accept any definition of terrorism at UN level that has OIC perspective in it. They are warning UN not to allow any loopholes in the definition to give leeway to violent movements in different countries

Not only does the definition of terrorism change from time to time but even the people's status changes as time evolves. Osama Bin Laden was once the CIA supported activist fighting for U.S. In its war against Russia. Sean McBride, Menachem Begin, Yassir Arafat, and Nelson Mandela who are considered heroes today were once referred as terrorist. The changing times change the course events. Terrorism is one of the biggest issues facing the world today and the consensus on definition is yet to be achieved but the fight against it has been started in the form of 'War on Terror'.

Purpose of Terrorism

Terrorizing seems to be the obvious purpose of terrorism but things are not as simple as they appear to be. There could be different motives behind terrorism. Sometimes terrorism is used to advance political goals. Sometimes world dominance seems to be the agenda of terrorism. Initially terrorists used the tactics of killing a few to let others become fearful. However, very recently madly and blindly killing innocent people have become the modus operandi. Terrorists while terrorizing a select group or general group want the sympathy of another group. Hence, mostly terrorists are looking for a certain kind of reaction.

For instance, certain terrorist groups are trying to incite Muslims world over against West through their actions. 9/11 attacks showed to the world that even the safest and place and tallest building is not safe. They also foresaw that U.S. would make a quick move in reaction to 9/11 attacks which they did in the war in Afghanistan. They therefore used the move of west to portray a picture of West as an imperialist invader. They also wanted to attack the concepts of liberty, freedom, tolerance and virtue that U.S. upholds and is always proud of. Whther they succeeded in their mission is debatable. The terrorists ivolved in the 9/11 attacks would have ideally wanted a reaction in Middle East but instead Bush administartion went for Afhganistan and tried to portray their attack as an attempt to free Afghans from the tyranny of Taliban.

When Japan attacked at Pearl Harbor their purpose was to incite U.S. into full scale war which they thought they would win but instead they ended up losing. Sometimes the actions made by terrorists become counterproductive. So, sometimes the purpose behind an act of terror or act of invasion could be military rather than political.

Terror acts are also made to cause damage to the unity of a group. Separatist groups like Tamil Tigers in Srilanka or violent religious groups carry out their own terror acts to propagate their own hate agenda. The situation in Ireland and now in Iraq points to the purpose of terrorism to disunite a country or a nation. Terrorism exists in this world in different forms and manifestations and is backed by different ideologies. "While there are terrorist organizations that operate across borders (giving them an 'international' dimension), they are all unique groups that have to be understood in terms of their own history, ideology, and social and political contexts. It is, in fact, a misnomer to assume that Palestinian 'terrorism', Irish 'terrorism', Basque 'terrorism', Tamil 'terrorism', Islamic 'terrorism', 'narco-terrorism' or anti-abortion 'terrorism' in the United States have anything more than superficial similarities. Similarly, it is mistaken to assume that there is no difference between revolutionary terrorism and nationalist terrorism or between ideological terrorism and religious terrorism" (Jackson 2002).

State sponsored terrorism can not be forgotten when discussing purposes of terrorist. There have been many glaring examples in which state machinery or secret service has been involved in or has supported acts of terrorism. Lebanon, Nicaragua, Mozambique and even Ireland are some of the countries where the so-called super powers of the world have allegedly sponsored terrorist groups. So there are agendas at the states level to support terrorism one way or the other.

Most of the time terrorist actions are meant to incite some group to make a… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Defining Terrorism" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Defining Terrorism.  (2006, November 25).  Retrieved December 1, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Defining Terrorism."  25 November 2006.  Web.  1 December 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Defining Terrorism."  November 25, 2006.  Accessed December 1, 2021.