A Time to Define Terrorism

Sawmeer Anuradhapura

First, everybody these days is talking about terrorism, especially Islamic terrorism and Muslim terrorists.However, it is necessary that we define this expression *terrorism* before we use it?

Allow me, then, to present here an Islamic perspective on terrorism. I will start by listing what terrorism is NOT.

1. Terrorism is not equal to any religion. It is not fair for Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, or Buddhism to be associated with terrorism.

The best way to judge a religion is to read its scripts. These religions, according to their scripts, propagate a certain way of viewing The Divine and the world, and train their followers to specific principles of morality and spirituality, albeit in different ways and various expressions.

Nevertheless, none of these religions endorses terrorism or any form of violence as a core value.

1. Terrorism is not equal to violence either. According to all rational human beings, some shapes and forms of violence are valid.

For example, violence is necessary to defend yourself when somebody attacks you in the street. Violence is needed sometimes to arrest and punish criminals (in this case, it is the government's job to do that). People justifiably use violence to hunt (unless they are vegetarian). And so on.

Therefore, violence in itself is not a vice. The way that it is used in a certain context could make it a vice or a virtue.

1. Terrorism does not include self-defense.

Imagine, Jim, that some people with arms invaded your area, kicked you out of your own home, and occupied it. Don't you think that you are entitled to self-defense?

This self-defense, however, is not supposed to lead you to injustices against other innocent people and should be only against those who invaded your home.

1. Terrorism is not restricted to individuals.

There are terrorist groups, which use organized guerrillas for their goals, and there are terrorist governments, which use armies and weapons of various degrees of destruction against innocent people.

1. Terrorism is not restricted to arms and bombs.

People could be terrorized and harmed via other means, such as hunger, torture, deprivation from medical care, economic sanctions on a large scale, and so on.

1. Terrorism is not restricted to non-combat zones.

Acts of terrorism could take place in combat zones and war zones if basic war ethics for civilians, soldiers, or captives are not respected and observed.

Terrorism: A Holistic Definition

Therefore, an act of terrorism is an act in which innocent civilians or non-civilians are harmed or hurt in a way that goes against the basic concepts of justice and human rights.

An act of terrorism could be carried out by a government, an army, a group, or an individual via violence or other means of destruction. It is a mistake to associate terrorism with any religion even if some people terrorize others in the name of religion.

Terrorists include government officials and army personnel who take disproportionate measures against whole populations in the name of "self-defense" or "international legitimacy."

For example, the murder of 3,000 innocent civilians, although it is a full-scale disaster, does not justify killing literally millions of people and setting a dozen countries on fire.

Political disobedience or refusing to acknowledge previously signed treaties by some government does not justify complete sanctions against a whole population (including cash, medical supplies, and infant food) and putting the whole population to hunger and slow death. These sanctions are acts of terrorism.

So, human beings from all religious backgrounds need a unified human standard that respects human life and does not differentiate between acts of injustices against innocent people, whether carried out by individuals or governments, whether they are Muslim, Christian, Jewish,Hindus, Buddhist or followers of any other creed.
God made all people equal and made the preservation of basic human rights, even for captives of war, an obligation and a core principle of the Islamic law. This is the Islamic point of view on terrorism.
Nor can goodness and evil be equal. Repel [evil] with what is better: Then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate! (Holy Quran 41:34)

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