What is Terrorism? History/Background – Sociology Essay
There is no single definition of “terrorism.” International opinion has deplored terrorism in all forms, regardless of political motives, yet the international
community has never agreed on what exactly constitutes terrorism. As a result, international law has instead chosen to address specific forms of terrorism, such as hijackings and abduction of foreign dignitaries, and to introduce measures to ensure international cooperation to combat and investigate terrorist incidents. For example, four UN conventions address aircraft and airport seizure or sabotage (1963; 1970; 1971; 1988), and a recent resolution issued by the UN Security Council requests UN-member states to report on their counterterrorism measures within 90 days (Resolution 1373, issued September 28, 2001).
Many in the international community would like to see one definition and law supplant the dozen-odd conventions and protocols governing hijackings, use of nuclear materials, hostage seizure, and other manifestations of terrorism. Without a law defining terrorism, there can be no enforcement of the would-be law. Terrorism has gained mention with respect to international laws on war crime-hostage taking, civilian attacks, and so forth. In this vein, terrorism specialist Alex P. Schmid in 1992 proposed to the UN Crime Branch a simple definition of terrorism: a peacetime equivalent of war crime. To a country engaged in revolution or conflict, however, this definition might turn a respected
“freedom fighter” into a wanted international criminal. Developing countries have similarly held that criminalizing terrorism protects the incumbent, the colonizer, the imperialist-the developed countries.
What is a terrorist?
A terrorist is a radical who employs terror as a political weapon. They usually organize with other terrorists in small cells, and often use religion as a cover for terrorist activities. A terrorist today is more than likely going to be a Muslim of Islamic religion. The term Muslim refers to one who believes in the Shahadah (the declaration of faith containing the basic creed of Islam) and embraces a lifestyle in accord with Islamic principles and values. The leader of the terrorist group usually tells his followers that they will be rewarded in heaven for their acts of courage, whether it is a suicide bombing or just a simple protest. The followers believe this because that is how their religion forces them to act.
Recent terrorist attacks
Over the past couple of years, there has been an uprising in terrorist attacks. The main incident that triggered these attacks was the 9/11 attacks. The September 11, 2001 attacks were a series of suicide attacks against the United States conducted on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. According to the official 9/11 Commission Report, nineteen men affiliated with Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, a loose network of Sunni Islamist terrorists, simultaneously hijacked four U.S. domestic commercial airliners. Two were crashed into the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York City — one into each of the two tallest towers, about 18 minutes apart — shortly after which both towers
collapsed. The third aircraft was crashed into the U.S. Department of Defense headquarters, the Pentagon, in Arlington County, Virginia. The fourth plane was crashed into a rural field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, 80 miles (129 km) east of Pittsburgh, following passenger resistance. The official count records 2,986 deaths in the attacks. The 9/11 Commission reported that these attackers turned the hijacked planes into the largest suicide bombs in history in one of the most lethal acts ever carried out in the United States. The September 11th attacks are among the most significant events to have occurred so far in the 21st century in terms of the profound economic, social, political, cultural and military effects that followed in the United States and many other parts of the world.
Osama Bin Laden: Terrorism
Very shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, suspicion fell on Saudi dissident, Osama bin Laden, as the mastermind behind the operation. Bin Laden today tops the CIA’s most wanted list. Just as he is undoubtedly one of the most hated men on earth, at the same time, he is seen as a leader and a hero to many others in the world. Topping his agenda is the return of Mecca, Median and Jerusalem to Muslim control. He has also declared war on the United States and its allies. Bin Laden has been implicated in a number of terrorist attacks, such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; the 1996 killing of 19 U.S. soldiers in Saudi Arabia; the American Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; as well as an attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. It was during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that Bin Laden gained a real following. Bin Laden was drawn to fight against communist
ideologies that spurned religious teachings. He worked for the resistance movement first in Pakistan, then Afghanistan itself. Bin Laden–who comes from a very wealthy family–
helped recruit for the resistance (mujahideen), and also provided them with financial and military support (as did the US and Saudi governments). It was around this time that Bin Laden founded the al-Qaeda, literally “the base” in Pakistan. The al-Qaeda’s original purpose was to provide a stopping point for weary fighters, but over time it became known as guerrilla training camps. Al-Qaeda today is an umbrella term for his organization. After the Soviet withdrawal, Bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia where in the late 1980s, he offered the Saudi government his mujahideen army to protect his homeland from the Iraqis. In what he considered an enormous betrayal, the Saudi government invited American protection instead. He was ultimately expelled from Saudi soil after repeatedly having lashed out at the United States and its allies in the Middle East. From 1991-1996, Bin Laden led efforts from Sudan to support the Islamist government in Khartoum, Africa. It was in the mid-1990s that Bin Laden called for war against Americans and Jews. The Saudi government, not satisfied with bin Laden’s reconciliatory efforts, froze his assets and stripped him of his citizenship. He has been in Afghanistan since 1996, when the Sudanese government asked him to leave (under pressure from the US and Saudi governments) and the Taliban agreed to take him in. Since January 2002, the search for Bin Laden in Afghanistan is fruitless and it is unclear whether he is dead or alive. In 1998, he issued a fatwa, declaring war on the United States. American intelligence officers believe that Bin Laden’s terrorist family exists all over the world in small, discreet, but highly organized cells.
Prevention of Terrorism
Despite having passed permanent counter-terrorism legislation only a year earlier, in the shape of the Terrorism Act 2000, the British government’s response to the September 11, 2001 attacks was to rush through emergency legislation to increase powers to deal with individuals suspected of planning or assisting terrorist attacks within the UK.
A key feature of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 was that resident foreigners suspected of terrorism could be interned without trial, if they could not be deported to another country without breaching British human rights legislation (for example, if they might be subject to torture or the death penalty in their native country). Several individuals were interned, mainly in Belmarsh gaol, under these powers; they were free to leave, but only if they left the country, which some did. The Government claims that it has evidence against these individuals that is inadmissible in court — or unusable in open court due to security concerns — and is reluctant to allow this evidence to be used. However, the House of Lords ruled that the internment of these people, without trial, to be contrary to the Human Rights Act 1998, mainly because the powers only extended to foreign nationals; the new act allows control orders to be issued against British citizens as well as foreign nationals. These acts have been set up to try to prevent terrorism and the people behind it.