Sociology Index

Terrorism Definition

Terrorist Groups, Sociology of Terrorism

We need a definition of terrorism. Without answering the question of “what is terrorism,” no responsibility can be imposed on countries supporting terrorism, nor can steps be taken to combat terrorist organizations and their allies. Defining terrorism is an operative concern of the first order. Terrorism is no longer a local problem of specific countries but an issue involving a number of international aspects. Terrorist organizations perpetrate attacks in a variety of countries; the victims of attacks may be of different nationalities; the offices, headquarters, and training camps of terrorist organizations also function in various countries and receive direct and indirect assistance from different states.

Terrorist organizations enlist support from different ethnic communities, and secure financial help throughout the world. Terrorism is an international phenomenon, responses to terrorism must also be on an international scale. Developing an effective international strategy requires agreement on what it is we are dealing with, we need a definition of terrorism. International mobilization against terrorism, such as the international conventions in the G-7 countries cannot lead to results as long as the participants cannot agree on a definition. Without answering the question of “what is terrorism?,” no responsibility can be imposed on countries supporting terrorism, nor can steps be taken to combat terrorist organizations.

Defining terrorism in the present situation

Academics, politicians, security experts and journalists, all use a variety of definitions of terrorism. Some definitions focus on the terrorist organizations’ mode of operation.. Others emphasize the motivations and characteristics of terrorism, the modus operandi of individual terrorists, etc.

The prevalent definitions of terrorism entail difficulties, both conceptual and syntactical. It is thus not surprising that alternative concepts with more positive connotations—guerrilla movements, underground movements, national liberation movements, commandos, etc.—are often used to describe and characterize the activities of terrorist organizations.

Definition of Terrorism

Will it ever be possible to arrive at an exhaustive and objective definition of terrorism?

Terrorism is the intentional use of, or threat to use violence against civilians or against civilian targets, in order to attain political aims. This definition is based on three important elements:

According to this definition, an activity that does not involve violence or a threat of violence cannot be defined as terrorism.