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Terrorism - Assignment Example

The etymology of the word terrorism is a good starting place as it is much simpler than defining terrorism in current usage. It is thought to have come from the French terrorisme which has origins in the Latin terror, meaning great fear or dread. The first use of the word in the English language is dated to the later parts of the 18th century and it was used without having any political subtext. It then evolved in usage and was associated with the French ‘Reign of Terror’ and other governmental situations where terror is used as a policy. Although terrorism is still used to describe some government regimes, it is more commonly used to describe non-governmental acts of violence which are normally considered to be unlawful in a national or international context. The need to define terrorism arose as a way of addressing violations of human rights and threats to national and international peace and safety. Perhaps the one aspect on which all definitions of terrorism have consensus is that it is a public form of violence and should be distinguished from violence against an individual or small group of individuals. It is also important to make this distinction for the purpose of criminal law, as terrorism charges require different modes of address in the courts. Perhaps the main problem with finding a true definition of terrorism is that it should be created without bias, which is incredibly difficult when considering that the differing definitions usually stem from a political context, Using terrorism in a political context means that it is likely to change definition to reflect the current political climate and the interests of the party using the word. One extremely good example of this concerns the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, who are now considered the very highest order of terrorists because they pose a threat to Western values. However, when the Taliban were fighting against USSR occupation of Afghanistan, they were considered to be freedom fighters because it was relevant to the political context of the time. Due to this reliance on the current political context, terrorism is usually used to refer to some kind of ‘other’ and therefore could be said to be the use of terror when it is against the values of the party using the word. It therefore carries with it some social stigma and is pejorative; it singles out the terrorist party as being immoral. A more modern example of this is the fact that terrorism is often used to describe radical Islamist parties, particularly when their acts of terrorism are in Europe and the US. The recent example of the 2011 Norway massacre masterminded by Anders Breivik is less commonly referred to as a terrorist attack perhaps because his ideological anti-immigration and anti-Islam standpoint is not uncommon in Europe. The most striking thing about the use of terrorism to describe these attacks is that it is highly dependent on the standpoint of the media describing the incident, again highlighting the importance of politics and ideology in usage. The importance of politics recurs again and again in definitions and re-definitions of the term. Almost all scholarly discussions of the usage refer to both violence and political ideology in the definition. Another ...Show more
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Summary

Terrorism Terrorism is usually described as a planned, systematic or methodical use of terror as a means of intimidation, although it currently has no universally agreed definition. Many legal definitions focus on the creation of terror by individuals generally working for some kind of greater political, religious or ideological cause, although some definitions include all unlawful warfare or violence…
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