Thursday, May 31, 2007

Who/what is a Terrorist?

What makes a Terrorist? What exactly is the Global War on Terror all about? Wikipedia throws up the following nugget:

"Terrorism expert Walter Laqueur in 1999 also has counted over 100 definitions and concludes that the "only general characteristic generally agreed upon is that terrorism involves violence and the threat of violence""

Not very useful, is it? According to this definition, if I punch my brother in the face, I'm a terrorist. Surprising, given that this word is splattered all over our newspapers and televisions - I've always wondered what a headline like "Terrorist shot dead in Bombay" means. At what point in your life do you become a terrorist? Upon having committed the act of violence, or even when preparing for it? What if you're just a trainee? What act of violence qualifies - does it have to be a bombing? Specifically a suicide bombing? Do you have to be a Muslim bomber to be called a terrorist? If it is a shooting, what kind of gun do you have to use? An AK-47? What if you shoot someone with a pistol? Does the violence have to be communal?

Another way of defining the word could be by looking at the motive of the offender. The word itself then presents a possible answer: "Terrorism" could mean "attempting to spread terror". Sorry - too vague again. Is a high-school bully also a terrorist, then? What if I'm trying to scare a witness into not deposing against me, and kill off a couple of his family members - the motive is clearly to spread terror. Am I a terrorist, then? Or does the target have to be more than one person - if so, what's the threshold?

Also - does membership of a "Terrorist Organisation" make you a terrorist? what kind of membership - what if you handle accounts for the JeM...or make lunch for the cadres? Does membership automatically make you a terrorist, or do you have to actually kill a few people before they bestow the epithet upon you? Is there a fancy certificate involved?

Too many questions - and till I get some answers for them, I'm going to be rather skeptical every time I see a headline talking about terrorists being gunned down.

No comments:

There was an error in this gadget