There are many challenges that humanity face and the most severe and threatening one is terrorism. Al Qaeda is believed by many to be a terrorist organization founded more than a decade ago by a huge wealthy Saudi Arabian religious extremist that has grown into a powerful network comprising trained and motivated men in various parts of the world who execute the orders of their leader Osama bin Laden.
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It is a term that has been understood in various ways by different people and this paper tries to bring a clear understanding by covering various aspects related to Al Qaeda.
Definition of Terms
Al Qaeda is a multinational support group that funds and organizes the activities of Islamic militants worldwide. Terrorism refers to the illegitimate use of violence against persons or property to threaten governments or communities usually to attain political, religious, or social goals.
The term Al Qaeda comes from the Arabic term qaf-ayn-dal which means a base or foundation. It can also mean a principle a formula or a pattern (Bevy 1).
Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda started his tricks in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and therefore he decided to move to Afghanistan together with his work personnel and construction tools and machinery with an aim of liberating Afghanistan from the invasion of Soviet Union.
Since Afghanistan had inadequate infrastructure and trained fighting personnel, Osama bin Laden took the opportunity to support them in the fight by solving these problems through establishment of a recruiting office in collaboration with Palestinian leader Adallah Azzam.
The recruitment office was to organize and coordinate recruitment of people from various Muslim countries who were then trained to fight. Most of them came from Saudi Arabia. The Osama group ganged with America and after ten years they managed to sweep off the Soviet Union from Afghanistan.
After the Afghanistan victory, Osama went back to his country but was later denied citizenship in 1994 for being against the government and went to Sudan. Al Qaeda was founded around 1988 by Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan after he broke from the joint group with Adallah Azzam. It has Muslim members through out the world who are networked and cooperate in their operations. Osama utilizes technology like the internet and satellite telephones to coordinate the members who are widely dispersed.
The members are from different countries; Canada, United States, Asia, Europe and the United Arab Emirates etc. Al Qaeda is anti-western and therefore views the United States of America as the biggest enemy towards Islam and has in some instances wanted to take revenge against it by destroying it as it perceive it as the biggest hindrance towards reform among the Muslim communities.
It aims at overthrowing the existing crooked and hierarchical governments of the Muslim states and establishing the Islamic law or Sharia. Osama bin Laden strives at establishing new Islamic groups and reinforcing those that exist and is also involved in the support of the various groups in their fights (Bari 20).
According to Greenberg (3), there are different perceptions towards terrorism. There are those who view it as an act that basis itself on injustice and oppression and hence responds by rebelling in search of justice while others perceive terrorism as an act of violence aimed at achieving political goals.
Causes of Terrorism and Critical Thinking
Identification of the real causes of terrorism is crucial in deciding how to react to incidences of terrorism. The causes may be political, economical or even social related (Rudinow 18). Psychologist states that most but not all terrorists suffer from an anti-social personality disorder and lack empathy towards people but they are not usually mentally ill.
Research shows that different classes of terrorists exist for example there are those who result to terrorism because of low self esteem caused by failure in their lives or poverty and those who are educated and of middle-class. Terrorist also perform their actions to revenge, to show the government that it is powerless, or to attract attention. From a rational view, terrorism is a logical political action. This is seen through the manner in which the terrorists operate for example their timing of their attacks to achieve maximum destruction.
Terrorism is seen as a social action based on a person’s understanding and interpretation of an aspect in relation to other people for example access to certain rights and services, social and political oppression towards the citizens may lead to terrorism due to frustration. Terrorism may also be caused by the desire to maintain identity and autonomy of different groups and in most cases it is a means for survival.
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Terrorism manifests itself in a range of ways for instance suicide bombings and tragic actions like the one that occurred on September11, 2001. It is associated with politics and religion/ Islam. Although terrorism is associated with Muslims not all Muslims are terrorists as most of them detest violence and advocate for peace (Blanchard 18).
September 11, 2001 Attack
The al Qaeda has been associated with many attacks for example the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa but the September11, 2001 attack in America is viewed as the sternest attack. It involved the terrorists hijacking four airliners, where two of them caused the destruction of the world trade center twin tower, one hit the pentagon which was a very secure office building and caused great damage while the other one crashed around Pittsburgh after it was hijacked and turned to Washington.
This incident caused death of many people including those in the planes, in the buildings and rescuers causing a lot of chaos and anxiety in the entire nation making most activities to go into a halt. Security actions were taken and the military and navy forces were alerted so that they could offer defense. Strategies of fighting world wide war against terrorism was also established (Grunwald 1).
Terrorist Groups and Tactics
Terrorist make very good use of the media to make their terrorists decisions. They are able to ascertain the level of fear and anxiety among people and the level of preparedness of the government and hence know the best way in which they can carry out their activities against the governments.
The terrorist tactics vary according to the level of training given to the members. The tactics include assassination, hijacking, kidnapping, arson, bombing, taking hostage, use of sophisticated weapons and utilization of modern technology. There are terrorist groups that are state directed; others are state-supported while others are non-state supported (Greenberg 10).
US and Terrorism
Terrorism is still a threat to the United States even though domestic terrorism has greatly reduced. The main reason why the US is the target for various terrorist groups is the ideological differences since the US is the leading capitalist state and has more power and so the terrorists act to counter this. They also believe that the US government has power and can control other governments and so the terrorist groups are not happy about this.
War on Terrorism
The approach taken on the war against terrorism is perceived in a negative manner by most Muslims all over the world as they view the action as a threat towards them and their religion. Muslim societies in Christian- dominated parts of the world still feel that they are not treated equally as the Christians due to their practices of religion and faith. This aspect hinders the success of the war against terrorism since the Muslim communities may not cooperate mainly because they feel they are being undermined.
In the process of combating terrorism action, there is threat assessment based on current data and information, and then the criticality and vulnerability assessment is done based on the threat assessment. Prevention measures in terms of personal and physical security, awareness creation and training is then done. Authority and jurisdiction are exercised and there is also crisis management planning and execution (Jenkins 17).
Terrorism has for a long period caused harm to the society by causing issues like assassination of great leaders, deaths of many citizens and loss of peace of mind among people all in the name of getting good results out of it, for instance, justice in allocation of resources and access of rights by the citizens. Counterterrorism strategies should be established to prevent cases of terrorist attacks as it is usually a loss to the affected nations.
Bari, Abdel. The Secret History of Al Qaeda. 2nd Ed. USA: University of California Press, 2008
Bevy, J. Lawrence. Al-Qaeda: An Organization to Be Reckoned With. New York: Nova Publishers, 2006.
Blanchard, M. Christopher. Al Qaeda: Statements and Evolving Ideology. USA: Diane Publishing, 2010
Greenberg, J. Karen. Al Qaeda Now: Understanding Today’s Terrorists. USA: Cambridge University Press, 2005
Grunwald, Michael. ‘‘Terrorists Hijack 4 Airliners, Destroy World Trade Center, Hit Pentagon; Hundreds Dead.’’ The Washington Post, 2001. Web.
Jenkins, Brian Michael. Countering Al Qaeda: An Appreciation of the Situation and Suggestions for Strategy. California: Rand Corporation, 2002
Rudinow, Joel and Barry E. Vincent. Invitation to Critical Thinking. 6th ed. UK: Cengage Learning, 2007