The media today reported the death of the world’s, or should I say, America’s most wanted man: Osama bin Laden. As people across the United States celebrate this momentous act of political assassination, I try to reduce terrorism down to its fundamentals.
Let me begin by firstly defining terrorism. Terrorism comes from the viewpoint of the victim. In its most basic form, it describes the intimidating, and often violent actions that result from a person or group’s idealistic struggle for action, change, or to further acceptance of its ideals. These idealistic struggles are at a deviation from the generally accepted viewpoint (in the eyes of the victim). As such, terrorism manifests itself as a fight (in the eyes of the victim) against established institutions and government.
Osama bin Laden believed that the restoration of Sharia Law in the Muslim world will set things right. He believed that a jihad was required to right injustices committed against Muslims by the United States, amongst other countries. These were his ideals. In fitting with my definition, he and those that were moved by his ideals, fought to act upon them in what the rest of the world views as terrorism.
Let’s look at the death of Osama bin Laden. The figurehead of the movement is now dead. Does this mean that the movement is dead, or that the threat has been minimised? If this was the case, then why has the United States heightened security warnings for its embassies and citizens across the world? It is a self perpetuating cycle.
Consider this on its most basic level: how can someone convince another person that their beliefs are, in their opinion, wrong and should not be held? That is ultimately the question that must be answered. Fundamentally, it comes down to our innate human ability to think independently for ourselves. When two humans believe two opposing ideals, depending on how it is managed, can lead to conflict.
Ideologies form the fundamental social fabric of the world we live in. It becomes a way of life. This explains why when people are killed, their ideologies can survive beyond their death.
Let me turn the table and look at this conflict from the opposing angle. Take the ‘liberation’ of Iraq as an example. Could it not be argued that the acts carried out by the “coalition of the willing” in liberating Iraq be classed as terrorist in strictly definitional terms, from the viewpoint of the Iraqi people? It fits all the parameters of the definition which I set out earlier in this post.
So don’t forget this irony when you next think of someone as a terrorist, or think that we ourselves are the victims of terrorism, because there will always be another person thinking the same thing on the other side.
Man will never rid itself of conflict, it’s what makes us who we are. It’s how we deal with it that makes us heroes.