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Saturday, 4 December 2010

Defining Terrorism

Like the terms community and religion, the definition of terrorism has proved controversial and created a literature of its own. In his powerful work The War on Terrorism and the Terror of God, Lee Griffith makes a couple of salient points on the relationship between religion and terrorism and how we might define it.

On the relation with religion he comments:

O Brother Job, the terrors are with us still. The raiders still come and the firepower falls from the sky: the winds still rage and the edge of the sword is bloody (Job1:13-19). While some suffer these horrors others try to sleep. Are these terrifying dreams by which sleep is invaded a warning from God (Job 33:14-18). While the source of the dreams is unclear, in Lebanon, the violence can be traced to its sources. When we follow the trail, and trace the violence back we do not find God. We find a mad confluence of godlets. We find principalities and powers; imperial nation states and barely organised guerilla fronts, all self exalted , all petty, and all appealing to as much inhumanity as humans can muster. It is called liberation and martyrdom. It is called defense and justice. Call it what you will. It is terrorism. (p.6)

Griffith goes on to suggest that in the confusion of defining what terrorism is perhaps we should let the victims of violence do the defining.

... what better experts are there? They recognise it when they see it. Both the US Marines subject to the truck bombing in Beirut and the Lebanese citizens subject to US shelling - they knew terrorism when they saw it. The women who are subject to rape and abuse, the African Americans who are subject to racist attack, the gay men and lesbians who are beaten in homophobic rage - they all know terrorism when they see it. Hutus and Tutsis, Palestinians and Israelis, Iraqis and Kuwaitis, Serbs and Croats - they all see and they know. No matter the identity of the perpetrators or the class of their weaponry or the nature of the motivation it is terrorism. (p.8)

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