We don’t understand terrorism, do we?

By: Imran Khushal

In 2013, there was a debate going on in a communist circle in Pakistan, whether we support America or Taliban? Which can be accepted as the lesser evil; drone strikes which are killing innocent civilians or suicide bombings which are also killing innocent civilians? It was never an easy task to take a side. But events which were occurring with ever increasing speed confused many communist and socialist and liberals and I don’t know whom else, but definitely a lot of people. Communist and socialist who ever wanted an end to American imperialism was ‘Okay’ with Taliban, as long as they were targeting Americans, but obviously they were not only attacking NATO forces but also innocent civilians across The Durand Line. On the other hand, these same people were also ‘Okay’ with American drone strikes as long as they were just eliminating Taliban and other terrorist organizations who allied with the USA at first place to fight a war against communist Russia.


A similar confusion was heard and seen after Paris attacks, in which more than a hundred people were killed. Facebook, a social network site, gave its users an option to filter their profile pictures with France’s flag, to show solidarity. This same feature was offered by a few other social networking sites as well. Some people right after the attacks tri-colored their profile pictures and updated their status, mostly words of solidarity with the Parisians. But other didn’t. Some gave explanations for why they aren’t coloring their profile pictures whereas other colored their picture with flag or flags of their desired country or countries.

One of the explanations caught my attention and it was ending with this question that, “why Facebook didn’t add this feature after terrorist attacks in Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan or Pakistan”? Well, I intend not to speak for Facebook or any other social media for that matter, but I have a counter question, does this justify not standing with innocent civilians and drawing comparisons, comparisons which are clearly leading towards confusion and more confusion?

I asked my friends where this whole thing is leading and an old friend of mine who is nowadays campaigning for ISIS, said something which didn’t make sense to me. Next day an MPhil colleague expressed similar views and today on breakfast table another PhD candidate said what that “ISIS supporter” said a couple of days earlier. And if I can put their opinion in words, it was more like “Whatever happened to the people of Paris was just and they deserved so”. “Now they will know how it feels”, “Why they are complaining and about what, they have lost just one hundred or so whereas we (Muslims) have lost hundreds of thousands.”

I felt like they all were considering the victims as some property of a bad guy who actually brought harm to their property in first place in Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. But this is not the case, how we can draw a comparison between two lives. A life in Syria is as important and valuable as a life in Paris. So if we are not falling on this end why we are falling on that end? I think we as a majority still don’t understand terrorism. These very terrorists who killed your beloved ones now killed their beloved ones and you are not condemning it because they didn’t condemn it at the first place.

This is strange. Terrorists are one ‘’US”, for them all the Parisians and Syrians and anyone else who is not supporting their cause is “THEM”, so deserves to be killed. Westerns including Americas, are another “US” and for them, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Taliban and anyone else who is not accepting their supremacy is “THEM”, and so deserves to be “droned”. Yet you are another “Us” and for you both “Terrorists’’ and “Westerns” are “THEM”, and for this you are oscillating between those two “THEMS”. The point is when you condemn the West you are perceived as a supporter of the Terrorists and when you condemn the Terrorists you are perceived as a Western supporter. Which needs to be changed.

We being a third “US”, need neither to support the drones nor the suicide bombers. We don’t understand terrorism yet fully so have to maintain some important categorizations. Need to set some agreeable points. And for my personal understanding, I differentiate in regards to “civilians”, which means if someone kills some civilians somewhere to achieve his political goals he is a terrorist and this act is terrorism. These political goals can be religious or otherwise.

Terrorism is disturbing and now it’s an everyday phenomenon. If you lack a basic understanding of terrorism and are confuse, you could be next attacker or a suicide bomber or at least a social media abuser. To avoid such a situation, I’ll suggest you to adopt one definition of terrorism which can work for you and there are more than one hundred definitions. I am not saying go for an American definition or of United Nation’s. Write one your own, if you can but remember trickier you’ll make it more chances you will get trap by yourself.

So go for a simple one and here are a couple of them.

Criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act. UN Security Council

Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them. UN General Assembly

And the one I have adopted is, terrorism would be defined as deliberate use or threat to use violence against civilians or against civilian targets in order to attain political aims. Boaz Gonar



Writer is pursuing his MPhil at Iqra University Islamabad, blogs at Kashmirica.wordpress.com and can be followed @imrankhushaal