Terrorism Redefined


In February 2016, at a security conference in Munich, the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir was asked to comment on an article in The Atlantic, by Graeme Wood stating that despite the Minister’s comments on previous occasions, the Islamic State was indeed Islamic. In response, the Foreign Minister stated that “Every religion has perverts and psychopaths who try to hijack it. ISIS is as much Islamic as the KKK is Christian. … Can one really say the KKK is a Christian organisation? … There are also people like this in the Jewish faith that have nothing to do with Judaism. There are people like this in the Hindu faith that have nothing to do with Hinduism. … So I caution people, because it seems to have become almost novel, not novel, it has become the flavour of the day. To try to read things into Daesh, or into Islam that are not there.”

“Terrorism” and “terror” are some of the words that have been the flavour of the day for a long time now. They have become convenient ‘go to’ words used as scapegoats in their acts perpetrated by a given set of people whom most of the time going ‘against the grain’. People that have either, in the quest for the promotion of human rights, gone against the administration of the day or have vexed others that do not agree with their opinion.

Before I go any further, I would like to contextualise the above statements. Very recently, precisely on the 5th of June 2017, the world woke up to news of a diplomatic crisis in the Gulf. Several countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, abruptly severed diplomatic relations with Qatar. Their acts included withdrawing ambassadors and imposing trade and travel bans.

About two weeks later, Qatar was sent a thirteen point list of demands to comply with within 10 days so as to remedy the situation. Some of the demands included the shutting down of its news network Al Jazeera and its affiliates, severing ties with –  allegedly – “terrorist” organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah and immediately closing Turkey’s military base outside the Qatari capital. Qatar rejected the demands saying that they were unreasonable but still maintained that they were open to dialogue.

The impact of the crisis has been to keep families apart and Saudi has even gone to the extent of using religion as a weapon in denying people from Qatar and Qatar-backed countries entry into the country for purposes of Hajj. As of now, countries such as the United States of America, Turkey, Britain and Russia are in the forefront, seeking the solution to the crisis. Kuwait has been appointed as mediator and as of now.

Venezuela, for more than a year now, has been dealing with the worst of economic crises. A country blessed with beautiful scenery, beaches and some of the largest oil reserves has turned to one of hyperinflation, bloody protests, a food crisis that has led to people skipping meals and consequently facing malnourishment, and facing chaos. Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, a man that has been at the forefront of anti-government protests, was sentenced to 14 years in prison and after serving three years of the term, has today been released and placed under house arrest to serve the rest of his term. The government had labelled the man a terrorist, conducted a questionable trial and sentenced him to 14 years in prison.

The dictionary definition of terrorism is the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. Broadly, it is the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror or fear, in order to achieve a political, religious or ideological claim. Nowhere in the definitions above is it stipulated that only the acts of a Muslim constitute terrorism (many a time have unlawful acts of a Muslim been labeled terrorist acts while those perpetrated by people from other religions have been argued to be the acts of insane people that needed medical attention) nor the acts of those that hold different opinions constitute terrorism.

Many other acts could be argued to be acts of terrorism; for example, going back in time, colonisation can be (rightly) argued to have been terrorism acts and invasions of countries today could be argued to be terrorist acts as well. This article is simply a call for the word to be used correctly, for the word not to be used as a convenience and all in all for the concept of the flavour of the day to stop being used to blur lines.

Hawa Gaya

Lawyer, lover of the environment and a beliver in peaceful dispute settlement
Hawa Gaya