Introduction – What is Terrorism
Terrorism is a 21stcentury global phenomenon. The United Nations has defined terrorism as ‘any act intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act.’ Similarly, Oxford has defined terrorism as ‘the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.’
Terrorism exists in numerous forms, i.e. revolutionary, political, nationalist, state-sponsored terrorism, etc. Almost the whole world is suffering from terrorism in one form or the other. Moreover, there are multiple causes and factors that result in terrorism. Like a deadly pandemic, terrorism poses a serious threat to the security, survival, and prosperity of an individual or a state. However, to curb terrorism, individual governments or states must take certain recommended pragmatic steps.
Terrorism in Different Phases & Forms
Historically, terrorism was mostly associated with revolutionary movements involved in seeking to overthrow political regimes. As the establishment of nation-states took on more permanent hold, nationalist terrorism increased to secure the rights of specific ethnically defined minority groups, such as the Irish in the United Kingdom, the Basques in Spain, and Zionists in Palestine.
In recent times, religious terrorism has proportionally increased the most, especially on an international level. The most conspicuous examples are ISIS and al-Qaeda, who, allegedly, attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
Thus, terrorism exists in many forms, i.e. Revolutionary terrorism in which terrorists use violence to frighten those in power to replace the existing government with a regime that holds acceptable political or religious views.
The second form of terrorism is Political terrorism in which without replacing, terrorists force the existing government to accept their views.
Third, Nationalist Terrorism promotes the interests of a minority ethnic or religious group that believes it has been persecuted under majority rule.
Lastly, in State-sponsored Terrorism, a state or government uses force against its citizens to oppress them, like India is using this tool in Kashmir against the Kashmiris.
Factors that Cause Terrorism
Having discussed some prominent forms of terrorism, it is pertinent to shed some light on the factors that cause terrorism. There are numerous psychological, socio-economic, religious, and political causes behind terrorism.
One reason for terrorism or terrorist acts is psychological issues. While not all terrorists suffer from psychological deficits, a typical terrorist is often an emotionally disturbed individual who acts out his or her psychoses within the confines of violent groups.
According to this view, terrorist violence is not so much a political instrument as an end in itself; it is the result of compulsion or psychopathology. Terrorists do what they do because of emotional problems, including but not limited to self-destructive urges and disturbed emotions combined with problems with authority. As suicide bombers exhibit few signs of mental problems such as depression, similar to the people who choose to take their own life by committing suicide.
Furthermore, a lack of economic opportunity and recessionary economies are correlated with terrorism. Because they are out of the political and social mainstream, young men and women are motivated to join terror groups. Suffering alienation, they lack the tools to compete in a post-technological society. Many are relatively ordinary people who, alienated from modern society, believe that a suicide mission will cleanse them from the corruption of the modern world.
According to this view, if terrorists suffer psychological deficiencies, it is because they suffer alienation from friends, family, and society. In this sense, terror groups provide a substitute family-like environment, which can nurture a heretofore emotionally underprivileged youth.
Ideological or Religious Causes
Also, there are some ideological or religious causes associated with terrorism. Mostly, the terrorists are brain-washed and consider killing others in the name of religion and other ideologies a sacred cause. Terrorists believe that their self-sacrifice outweighs the guilt created by harming innocent people.
Therefore, terrorism requires violence without guilt; the cause justifies the violence. Some terrorists are motivated by extreme religious beliefs which often coincide with their ideological views. Terrorists believe that their commitment to God justifies their violent actions.
Political Factors behind Terrorism
Moreover, most terrorist activities have political roots and causes. While religion and ideology may be used to motivate people and seek new recruits, the real objective of the terrorists is political power. Acts of terrorism are politically oriented, ranging from specific goals formulated in terms of the might of political nation-states to more general aims related to the plight of certain peoples and groups.
Thus, terrorism can result from demands made by ethnic groups to receive representation in an existing political community or have their own state be formed.
Impacts of Terrorism
Having discussed multiple factors and causes of terrorism, let’s analyze the negative impacts of terrorism on society. Terrorism wreaks havoc in society in multitudinous ways. It is pertinent to discuss the impacts of terrorism on the social, and economic sectors of society.
In the social sector, loss of lives and destruction of infrastructure are direct fallouts of terrorism. In Pakistan, more than 70,000 people have lost their lives since 2001.
Moreover, vandalized buildings, schools, industries, destruction of public properties, vehicles, and motorbikes, further add to the miseries of ordinary masses. The education sector suffers a heavy blow.
Terrorism causes social unrest in society. People become frightened of leaving homes and going to schools, or to other workplaces. This often leads to mass migration either within a country or to other countries which gives rise to further social unrest and administrative issues.
Moreover, in order to fight terrorism, the government utilizes its resources to fight against terrorism at the cost of social development and welfare programs.
In the economic sector, the worst impacts of terrorism are beyond appraisal. Pakistan has suffered a loss of $120 billion in its fight against terrorism. Due to bomb blasts and other terrorist acts, people feel compelled to close their businesses in order to save their lives.
As a result, factories and industries shut down. A few years back, the incidents of extortion and targeted killings in Karachi severely impacted the metropolis. Businessmen and investors become reluctant from investing or even prefer to leave the city or even the country in such precarious situations.
Moreover, the tourism sector, which plays a significant role in strengthening the economy, suffers a heavy blow. A few years ago, the world had labeled Pakistan as an unsafe place to visit, or called it a ‘no-go area’. Foreigners were averse to visiting the country. The situation has considerably improved now.
Ways to Curb Terrorism
Given the unbearable impacts of terrorism, curbing it becomes a priority for any state. In order to root out terrorism from the soil, a state needs to take certain pragmatic steps.
A state must make sure that its youngsters are not alienated, uneducated, or unemployed. Moreover, it must ensure the provision of education. The government must create and provide jobs to its citizens on merit.
Moreover, a state must maintain high standards of governance; firstly by rooting out corruption, and secondly by attending to the miseries of ordinary masses.
Furthermore, the enforcement of law and order, and the provision of swift justice must be ensured. Any compromise on this would result in terrorist activities.
Also, the provision of health care services at grass-root levels will considerably mitigate the intensity of terrorism in the country.
Apart from these, the role of religious scholars and media is crucial in this regard. Ulamas/religious scholars must condemn terrorism in Friday’s sermons. Moreover, they must present the true picture and interpretations of Islamic teachings on killing and harming others. The media should also play an active role in highlighting the evil motives of our enemies. It should advocate for people to unite against terrorists.
To cap it all, terrorism is here to stay in one form or the other with its negative impacts. But, we can mitigate the intensity of terrorist acts by taking certain pragmatic steps.
Every new challenge comes with an opportunity and different lessons to learn. Terrorism also draws attention to grave shortcomings in governance and certain loopholes in administrative setups.
Thus, a state can mitigate or curb terrorism by plugging in the existing loopholes in the administrative setup and governance structure.
Note: We have made headings in this Essay on Terrorism for better understanding. Please, do not make headings in the essay paper.
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