What is meant by the word ‘terrorism’? Just a few years ago terrorism seemed to be restricted to a few isolated places, such as northern island, the Basque country in northern Spain, and some areas in the Middle East. Now especially after September 11 2001, with the destruction of the twin towers in New York- it has mushroomed into a worldwide phenomenon, springing up in paradisiacal Bali, Madrid, Spain; London, England; sri lanka; Thailand, Indonesia, and even Russia. Yet terrorism is not a new development.
Terrorism has been defined as ‘the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.’ Nevertheless, terrorism exhibits certain characteristic. First, terrorism aimed at non-combants. Secondly, terrorism used violence for dramatic purpose; instilling fear in the target audience is often more important than physical result. This deliberate creation of dread is what distinguishes terrorism from simple murder or assault.
VIOLENCE ROOTED IN THE PAST:
In the first century Judea, a violent group called the zealots pushed for Jewish independence from Rome. Some of their most ardent adherents become known as sicarii, or dagger men, a name that comes from the short swords they hid under their garments. Mingling in Jerusalem’s festival crowds, the sicarii slit the throats of their enemies or stabbed them in the back.
In 66 C.E., a group of zealot seized the fortress of Masada near the Dead Sea. They butchered the roman garrison and made the mountaintop fastness their base of operations. For many years they sortied from there and harassed the imperial authorities. In 73 C.E, the roman tenth legion led by Governor Flavius Silva retook Masada, but they did not conquer the zealots. A contemporary historian claims that rather give in to Rome, 960 of them-everyone up there except two women and five children-committed suicide.
Some view the zealot revolt as the start of terrorism as we know it. True or not, since then terrorism has left deep tracks in the history’s path.
TERRORISM WITH ROOTS IN CHRISTENDOM:
From 1095 through two centuries, crusade armies repeatedly crossed between Europe and the Middle East. Opposing them were Muslim forces from Asia and North Africa. The issue was the control of Jerusalem, and each side tried to gain the advantage. In their many battles, those ‘holy warriors’ hacked one another to pieces. They also used their swords and battle axes on mere bystanders.
In the later centuries, terrorist began using explosives and firearms with gruesome, fatal results.
June 28, 1914, is viewed by historians as a turning point in European history. A young man, regarded by some as a hero, shot the Austrian crown prince. Archduke Francis Ferdinand. That event brought mankind into World War 1. Twenty million deaths later, the Great War ended. World War 1 had its sequel in world war 11. With its concentration camps, slaughter of civilians in bombing raids, and acts of retribution on innocent people. After the war, murders continued. Over a million people died on Cambodia’s killing fields in the 1970’s. And the people of Rwanda are still reeling from the massacre or over 800,000 in the 1990 genocide.
From 1914 to our time, mankind has suffered from terrorist activity in many countries. Yet, some people today act as if history had no lessons for modern man. Daily, terrorist attacks kill hundreds, maim thousands, and rob millions of their right to peace of mind and safety. Bombs explode in marketplaces, villages’ burn to the ground, women are raped, children go to war or some times into captivity, people die. In spite of laws and universal condemnation, this sadistic routine does not stop. Is there hope that terrorism will end? Only time will tell.