Difference Between Terrorism and Crime
Any crime is easy to define as any conduct that is unacceptable in society and causes harm to an individual or a group of individuals. Theft, robbery, burglary, bribery, embezzlement, violence and mental health, rape and murder are easier to categorize as crimes. But when it comes to terrorism, it becomes hard to have a universally acceptable definition. This difficulty to mark an act a terrorist act is one main reason why the world is facing terrorism today. While everyone accepts that terrorism is an atrocious crime, the very fact that a terrorist for one is a martyr for others has complicated the situation. This article intends to differentiate between terrorism and crime and also understand the relationship between the two concepts.
There are laws to deal with crimes in all societies and criminal punishments are imposed in accordance with the severity of these crimes. But how do we decide on punishment for a crime of murdering hundreds of people with a simple act of terrorism. Terrorism is designed to create panic and spread fear in the minds of a society. Terrorism is violence personified and a naked truth that has spread its tentacles to all parts of the world and is confined to any one country now.
If we go back in the history and see the ancient civilizations, the sentences for some serious crimes were brutal in nature and criminals were punished in the open for all to see and take a lesson from them. This was done to strike fear in the minds of people so that they do not dare to do such crimes. It could be described as terrifying the society but as it was for the general welfare and betterment of society and hence was accepted.
The modern system of crime and punishment is based on a judicial system where a criminal pleads guilty and is sentenced to prison according to his crime. But a terrorist, even when he is caught because he never accepts to be guilty and thinks that his act is not wrong at all and he has done good for a section of the population. This takes us to the origin or roots of terrorism and also the difficulty of finding a universally acceptable definition of terrorism. Terrorism as an international threat is not new, though many countries around the world face the wrath of terrorism over the decades now.
It is easy to distinguish between a crime and an act of terrorism on the basis of procedures of guilt / innocence and procedures for punishment. A common criminal when he pleads guilty, gets sentenced in accordance with its crime and serves the sentence in prison. But terrorism works on the basis of an ideology that motivates a person or group of individuals to engage in acts of terrorism as they believe it is the only way to make their grievances heard or felt. If Sardar Bhagat Singh bombed the legislative assembly, it was considered a terrorist act by the British administration and tried accordingly, but for the entire Indian population, he was a hero, a martyr, a symbol of resistance against British oppression.
Similarly, although the Sri Lankan government and the rest of the world considers LTTE as a terrorist outfit, the LTTE leaders and members think themselves to be freedom fighters against an oppressive and tyrannical regime that has not listened grievances of Tamils living in Sri Lanka. Similarly the insurgents engaged in terrorist acts in many other parts of the world including Kashmir, Israel, Middle East, Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, Yemeni and African countries have the same concept. The oppression and suppression of minorities, discrimination and denying them their fundamental human rights, or by denying the right to be part of government, raises hatred. All these people who face it find terrorism as the only way to acquire justice.
This was how the world has seen terrorism until 9 / 11 happened. The images of the collapsing twin towers and subsequent loss of 3000 lives has shaken the world and made the world say it out loud that enough is enough. Those who were against terrorism were united under the leadership of the United States and this time the American President has even gone to the extent of saying that countries that have pledged support for the war on terror were allies while those against it were enemies of the alliance. The world was clearly divided into those who were against terrorism and those who supported.
The determined efforts of allies in the war on terror ensued in many victories in between the sporadic acts of violence by terrorists but with the recent murder of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces in Pakistan clearly indicates that the civilized society is on the move to win its war on terror and there is no place for such a heinous crime in the civilized world. No ideology, no belief can justify killing innocent people and no religion allows anyone to involve anyone in such horrifying acts.