Sunday, September 22, 2019 | ePaper


Terrorism Not Related To Any Religion

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Abu Salem Hussain
 [Second part of the article]
The core philosophical questions posed by terrorism such as: How should we define it? Is it morally distinctive? Can it be morally justified? We can seek to overcome relativism and double standards that often plague debates about terrorism. To investigate the main ethical approaches to terrorism: in terms of its consequences, rights and justice, "supreme emergency," and the collective responsibility of citizens. A rigorous yet accessible analysis of a range of moral position from the acceptance of terrorism is accepted when its consequences are good on balance to its absolute rejection. Prominent writer Primoratz, his book 'Terrorism: A Philosophical Investigation', argues that terrorism is almost absolutely wrong. It may be morally justified only when an entire people are facing a true moral disaster, and this should be understood in a highly restrictive way. Conceptual analysis and normative arguments about the practice of terrorism are complemented with case studies of terror-bombing of German cities in World War II and the role of terrorism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This distinction between terrorist and non- terrorist mass killers is not new. The Pulse Nightclub shooter in Orlando and the San Bernardino shooters were quickly labeled terrorists, but not the Sandy Hook shooter or the Las Vegas shooter. Dylann Roof, who killed nine African-American churchgoers in 2015, was labeled a terrorist by some commentators but not others. Going by the accepted definitions of terrorism, some mass killers are terrorists but others are not. But, from my perspective as an ethicist and scholar of terrorism this raises some ethical questions: Is this distinction applied fairly? And are there moral differences between terrorist and nonterrorist violence? Calling an act "terrorist" has huge implications: Terrorism is often depicted as a serious threat justifying radical counterterrorism measures, including mass surveillance, immigration bans and even torture.
In addition, the label "terrorist" often expresses a particularly strong form of moral condemnation. Philosopher Michael Walzer, for example, calls terrorism "indefensible" because it targets innocent people and creates fear in everyday life. While we condemn all murders, terrorist murders are often regarded as particularly morally reprehensible. So in thinking about whether Ullah, Saipov and other mass killers are terrorists, two questions arise: Do their actions meet an accepted definition of terrorism? And is there something about their actions that justifies strong moral condemnation and radical preventive measures? So Terrorism, the systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective. Terrorism has been practiced by political organizations with both rightist and leftist objectives, by nationalistic and religious groups, by revolutionaries, and even by state institutions such as armies, intelligence services, and police.
There are many arguments against both terrorism and conventional warfare, but that the biggest argument of all is that no one should make the decision to sacrifice another's life for a cause, no matter how good the cause. If one chooses to risk or sacrifice his own life for a cause, so be it. But the moment someone starts making that decision on behalf of others, both terrorism and conventional warfare lose any legitimacy whatsoever. Unfortunately, this also shows up in many groups, just not the terrorists. From this perspective, it might be reasonable to argue that terrorism is simply an extreme of a spectrum, and thus can be understood remarkably well by nearly any school of philosophy which recognises that there is a spectrum to humanity. Its often said that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. The mindset may be closer to ourselves than we think. Here the philosophical debate becomes - Is it legitimate to sacrifice innocent human lives for the sake of a higher cause? If so, which causes?
Why is it legitimate for innocent civilians to die in conventional warfare, as collateral victims to attacks conducted by regular armies under conditions of a declared war, but not legitimate for innocent civilians to be killed by non government actors? We know that terrorism has nothing to do with religion. Why Muslims are always considered as suspects? Terrorism is not related to any religion. To express the right, the right of freedom does not mean that someone's religious rights should be curtailed.
Therefore, Terrorist is not a label to be used lightly. The power it contains, the violence and horror it represents, the judicial and judiciary consequences it contains are all elements that are nearly equivalent to a death sentence. And the same logic should apply to the use of counter-terrorism laws, especially detention powers. If the label of terrorist is used indiscriminately, it becomes diluted and loses its meaning, which is why it is essential that it be used with discretion. Moreover political definitions of terrorism focus on the use of violence, but the endorsement of violence does not reveal the essence of the terrorist act. Because terrorism aims at the destruction of the non- identical other,.mentally as well as materially.

(Abu Salem Hussain, Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, University of Barishal; e-mail :

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