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Terrorism: A Definition and Analysis Essay

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Updated: Mar 5th, 2022

The word terrorism is one word that has received as many definitions as ever realized by any other word. The extend has gone to as far as different arms of the United Nations giving different definitions. Apart from the UN, the United States also experiences a diversity of definitions within different departments of the government. Analysts and scholars have not been left behind in the attempt to define this elusive word.

It is due to these different definitions that at some point, Nelson Mandela was refered to as a terrorist while Chile’s Pinochet was referred to as a Statesman before tables were turned. But as Abdeljaber puts it, the broadness of the definition and exaggerated reactions by the military contributes highly in the encouraging of terrorist activities (Wells, 2009). It is therefore important that a clear and exclusive definition is designed so as to enact a clear way forward on the issue of terrorism.

Different definitions

The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines terrorism as the perpetration of violence and force unlawfully against people or property with a sole aim of intimidating or coercing the government or the targeted population or any other segment of the society in order to further social or political interests (Terrorism Awareness, 2009).

Department of justice defines terrorism as “a premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience (Terrorism Awareness, 2009).

The United Nations defines terrorism as an act whose aim is to cause death or inflict serious bodily harm to a civilian, or any other individual who has no active role in the hostilities in the armed conflict situation with the main aim of the act being intimidation to the population or compelling the government or an International body to act or not to act in a given manner (Terrorism Awareness, 2009).

There are many other definitions of this word that can even fill ten pages of this size but all in all their central idea seems to rotate around the same concept. There is need to identify a clear definition because it is through this that counter measures can be appropriately outlined. With a clear understanding of the difference between terrorism and religious, political and ideological definitions, a good definition will assist in saving innocent civilians from being involved into the mix with radical groups and thus save them in the instances of discrimination and stereo typical beliefs. In addition, this will assist the concerned parties to put up appropriate measures to catch and bring to book perpetrators of this crime (Wells, 2009).

Evolution of Terrorism

The face of terrorism has had a tremendous metamorphosis. It was formally believed that terrorists were from Arabic countries and were staunch supporters of the Islamic religion. This view is no more. The face of terrorism has changed completely. Leppard & Winnet (2008) purport that the Al Qaeda network has changed its tactics and is now recruiting from universities and colleges. According to the report, Al-Qaeda has embarked on a recruiting spree where their prime targets are students with engineering and IT degrees. These students are not of Arabic descent but mostly third generation Britons who feel short changed by the Western policies on Islam and Arabic countries. A good example is the London bombing where investigation suggested that the perpetrators were Britons with no criminal records and with technical expertise.

Terrorism Financing

Just like any other organization, terrorism strongly depends on finances in order to operate successfully. A study by Amador (2008) in the financial structure reveals that terrorists have a complex three form structure which ensures financial prosperity. First, there is subsidiary structures which are charities that exist symbiotically with the terrorists, independent organizations and individuals who support terrorism with clean money and finally dependent structures which are criminal activities operating under the protection of the terrorists. To transfer the money, they use inferior transfer methods like Hawala and other Arabic banks to ensure that finance flows to the areas that need operations.

Connection Between US’s Effort against the Soviet and Al-Qaeda

When United States saved a small Muslim village from being destroyed by the Serbs they did not know that they were giving birth to Al Qaeda (Lebl, 2008). The West then created Izetbegovic who later became the author of the Islamic Declaration which is the beginning of the Al Qaeda. In the declaration, he says, “The Islamic movement should and must start taking over the power…to build up a new Islamic authority.”

Later, Izetbegovic and his Party of Democratic Action started to form networks with Iran and other Muslim organizations and charities that supplied arms to the Muslims in Bosnia. It was this Bosnian war that eventually acted as a recruiting tool for the global network of Jihads. Osama Ben Laden and the Al Qaeda network were among the components that played an important role in expansion of the Bosnian Jihad into an International society. The Islamic youth were given new combat skills with which they later joined al Qaeda to form a well trained Net work of terrorists.


Amador, S. J., (2008). “” Foreign Service Institute. Web.

Terrorism Awareness and Prevention. (2009). “Definitions of Terrorism.” Web.

Lebl, L., (2008). “ Bosnia and global jihad.” Web.

Wells, M., (2009). “International week keynote speaker reveals decades-old battle of definitions within the UN.” University of Alberta. Web.

Winnet, R., and Leppard, D., (2005) “Leaked No. 10 Dossier Reveals Al-Qaeda’s British Recruits.” The Sunday times online. Web.

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