Monday 21 March 2016

 How do we define a terrorist?

A terrorist is a person who will intentionally attack non-military targets while having no concern whatsoever for the loss of life of his or her victims, including women and children. The racists who bombed churches in the south in the '60s, were terrorists. Timothy McVeigh who bombed the federal building in Oklahoma was a terrorist. The 9/11 perpetrators were terrorists. the people who shot 130 people to death in Paris in November 2015 were terrorists. The followers of ISIS who murder persons whom they have captured are terrorists. Members of Al Qaeda are terrorists. The list can go on but it isn’t necessary as the aforementioned perpetrators are suffice. 

But what about someone who sends a message via the Internet that he or she is going to kill people in the name of Allah but doesn’t actually kill anyone? In its broadest sense, terrorism is such if someone threatens the use of violence in order to achieve a political, religious, or ideological aim. This would include the use of violent acts against property even if no one is killed in order to frighten the people in the area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.

A broad array of political organizations have practiced acts of terrorism to further their objectives. It has been practiced by both right-wing and  left-wing  political parties, nationalist groups,  religious groups, revolutionaries, and ruling governments.  The purpose of terrorism is to exploit human fear in order to help achieve the goals of those who commit these acts.

A US Army officer, Major Malik Nadal Hasan, had gone on a shooting spree at a military base in Texas, killing 11 people and wounding more than 30 others before he was shot dead by police. Was he a terrorist?

This killer was armed with two handguns when he walked into an US Army training centre and opened fire on fellow soldiers who were having last minute medical check-ups before being deployed to Afghanistan. The victims were unarmed. It had been said that it was not clear as to what he did was really an act of terrorism.       
It has also been said that he converted to Islam. Admittedly, almost all terrorists are Islamic terrorists but it doesn’t follow that all persons who are of the Islamic faith are terrorists.       

He was overheard to say thatMuslims should rise up and attack Americans in retaliation for the US war in Iraq.” Unfortunately, since he was killed, we will never know if his attack against his fellow soldiers was motivated for political or ideology reasons. Irrespective of us not really knowing his motive for killing his fellow soldiers, in my opinion, he was a terrorist who committed an act of terrorism.


Major Hasan was reportedly fighting orders to be deployed to Iraq claiming that he was the victim of harassment and insults because of his Arab background and his faith. If that is so, could his act be prompted as revenge and nothing more?

The act of this man has convinced me that his hatred towards the American government for sending solders to Iraq was the fuel and his being teased about his race and faith was the spark that set him off on his rampage against his fellow soldiers. Considering the fact that he killed unarmed soldiers (who probably were not the ones who teased him) and wanted Americans to rise up against their government, made him a terrorist and as such, his act was that of terrorism.   

But if someone kills innocent people simply for personal revenge, is he a terrorist? The gunman who massacred 13 people inside an immigration community centre in upstate New York was angry over losing his job and depressed about his poor English skills. There is no doubt in my mind that this man was mentally disturbed since he couldn’t rationally handle failure. Does his killing those innocent people make him a terrorist? Was his act, one of revenge and nothing more?

Armed with two handguns and a satchel of ammunition, Jiverly Wong, a 42-year-old Vietnamese immigrant rampaged through the American Civic Association building in Binghamton, a working class town 180 miles northwest of New York City, on the morning of  April 3, 2009. He was wearing body armor, suggesting he was prepared to do battle with police. He went into one of the classrooms and indiscriminately shot and killed 11 immigrants along with the class's supply teacher and a 72-year-old mother of 10. Four others were critically wounded.

What was the fuel and the spark that cause the raging fire in his mind? Wong had recently lost his job and was angry about his language problems and his failure to find work. I don’t know why he was fired but not being able to find work may have come about because of his inability to speak English sufficiently.

Obviously his victims had nothing whatsoever to do with him being fired or his inability to find a job. I believe that he chose that location to commit his massacre of innocent persons for two reasons. The first is that he knew were a number of people would be in an enclosed room and second, he knew that they were unarmed.

I believe that Wong’s shooting of these unfortunate victims was motivated by an act or revenge against society in general. That doesn’t make him a terrorist. He was a very angry man who hated the American society where everyone in his mind had everything and he had nothing because of his language problems and therefore he took his hatred out on those whom he could kill very easily and without interruption. Then shortly after the massacre, he disposed of himself with one of his guns.

Cho Seung-hui, 23, on the 19th of April 2007, shot two people dead in a hall of a residence at Virginia Tech University before slaughtering another 30 students in another building two hours later. Between his first and second bursts of gunfire, the Virginia Tech gunman mailed a package to NBC headquarters in New York containing photos of him brandishing guns and video of him delivering an angry, profanity-laced message that was later shown on NBC Nightly News. He obviously wanted fame.

 He said in part, "You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided (what I did) today, but you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off."

In his 1900 word diatribe, he railed against hedonism (pursuit of pleasure) and Christianity. .In one excerpt from his ramblings, Cho said: "Jesus was crucifying me. When the time came, I did it. I had no choice."

He also referred to "martyrs" like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the teenagers who murdered 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 and then killed themselves.

He had been committed to a mental institution in 2005 after he had been twice accused of stalking female fellow students. He had also been identified by his English tutors as deeply troubled and possibly suicidal.

A Virginia court order issued at the time declared him "mentally ill and in need of hospitalization," saying he presented "an imminent danger to self or others. Still grieving for the victims, both students and teachers had described a sullen loner whose creative writings for his English literature degree were so laced with violence and venom that they alarmed some people around him.

There is no doubt in my mind that this man was mentally ill.  But was he a terrorist?  I think he was. He had a social plan in mind to get even with society in general. He obviously hated Christians so his motives were both ideological and religious which put him in the realm of terrorism although his third motive was undoubtedly revenge against society in general. I don’t think he was attempting to exploit fear in the community in which he lived.  He was simply telling the people in his community and elsewhere that they didn’t heed his warnings. He too disposed of himself with one of his guns.

 Ayanle Hassan Ali, a 27-year-old born in Montreal, stabbed two members of Canada's military at a recruitment centre in Toronto  on  March 14th 2016 and is currently is facing nine charges in connection with the attack. The victim’s wounds were not serious.

Were the stabbings an act of terrorism? Consider what he said during the stabbings.  "Allah told me to do this, Allah told me to come here and kill people." There is nothing to indicate that he is affiliated with any terrorist organizations. Mind you, a person who commits a terrorist act doesn’t necessarily have to be affiliated to a terrorist organization. In my opinion, this man is a terrorist because he committed a terrorist act for religious reasons.

Canadians soldiers in 2014 lost both Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo to terror attacks. The first man was struck by a car in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, near Montreal by radicalized Muslim convert Martin Couture-Rouleaus and the second man was shot to death by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, also a radicalized Muslim. while guarding the National Memorial near Canada’s parliament buildings in Ottawa. These two misfits were home grown terrorists. There is no doubt in my mind that Canada has other terrorists in our midst.

Would an assailant of any other religion who claimed that “God” instructed him to kill or wound similarly be deemed to “fit” the terrorist mould?  The very fact that a reference to “Allah” is apparently sufficient to trigger suspicions of “terrorism” is itself problematic which is a manifestation of the tendency to equate “terrorism” with acts of violence committed by Muslims. In my view, I don’t care if he believes that the dog next door is God in disguise, if he says that he is killing people because his God (the dog) told him to do it, he is still acting as a terrorist because he is killing for religious reasons.

I know what you ae thinking. Was David Richard Berkowitz a terrorist because he followed the orders of his neighbour’s dog, Sam? He claimed that he had been a member of a violent Satanic cult which orchestrated the six murders he committed as ritual murder. That is hardly a religion that is taken seriously except by fools who are mentally unbalanced. For this reason, I consider that Berkowwitz who is serving six consecutive life terms in prison as not being a terrorist and instead is simply a nut case.

Mohamed Hersi was convicted of “terrorism offences” by the Canadian authorities for attempting to join Al Shabab in Somalia that is a terrorist organization. That decision is no different than convicting a man of attempted bank robbery because he is approaching a bank as the robber’s driver.  But if all the authorities knew about Hersi was that he was going to Somalia as a tourist and for no other reason, he wouldn’t’ be classed as a terrorist.

Nova Scotia’s RCMP (federal police) said an alleged plan by at least two suspects to carry out “mass killings” of civilians in a public place in the Halifax-area on Valentine’s Day had been foiled. Asst. Commissioner Brian Brennan says a man who was found dead in a Halifax-area home intended to go to a public place with an American woman and open fire on citizens before killing themselves.  Two other male suspects, ages 20 and 17, were also involved, The authorities would not characterize the alleged plot as terrorism, saying the views of the individuals “were not based in religion or culture.” They were probably losers who were fed up with their lives and wanted to take innocent citizens with them by murdering them.

The man convicted of the bombing in the Boston Marathon is definitely a terrorist. So were the eight men in Canada who planned to attack the Canadian parliament and behead the prime minister

U.S. studies indicate that more people in the United States have been killed by right-wing and white-supremacist political violence than by Muslims since 9/11. Reports from Europol (the European policing agency) likewise demonstrate that Muslims have been responsible for only a tiny percentage of political violence on that continent.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be conscious of the fact that in our midst there are homegrown misfits who want to be terrorists. 

What is really frightening is that 9 out of 10 would-be terrorists on the terror watch are still able to buy assault weapons. 

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