Terrorism may be defined as an act of instilling fear in innocent people using unlawful threats and violence. By and large, terrorists use cruel strategies to realize political change, create fear, or perpetuate their political ideals. In modern-day society, terrorism is ranked at the top of the list of major challenges facing different nations. Over the years, operations by terror gangs have greatly evolved and different approaches are being used today to frighten targeted groups and disrupt the normal functioning of the society (Smilansky, 2004).
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This notwithstanding, there is a part of the society that is convinced that terrorism is justifiable. This category of people believes that what they are pursuing is just and that the strategies used to undertake terrorist activities are equally justified. Ostensibly, some of those involved in terrorism are people with good education and strong moral convictions.
However, some believe that terrorism is unacceptable and is only used by individuals for selfish gain at the expense of many innocent people (Frowe, 2015). This paper presents a discussion of terrorism and whether it could be justified.
Is Terrorism Justified
Generally, there are two contradicting opinions on terrorism. One group sees terrorism as an evil thing while another considers it to be a means of achieving social justice and equality (Smilansky, 2004). Rather than seeing them as criminals in the society, supporters of terrorism look upon terrorists as heroes pursuing a justified cause. The 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, for example, has been hailed by a small part of the world as a brave act against the wicked society. However, others have argued against this and believe that the destruction of innocent lives for reasons other than self-defense is morally unacceptable (Frowe, 2015).
Various arguments have been presented by proponents to justify terrorism. A good example is what has happened in Kenya recently. On several occasions, the Al-Shabaab terror group that operates in East Africa has launched serious attacks in Kenya resulting in the loss of many innocent lives. After carrying out an attack, the reason often given by the Al-Shabaab commanders is that they are avenging the deaths of their Muslim brothers killed by Kenyan soldiers.
Another reason that has been given to justify the Al-Shabaab attacks in Kenya has to do with the fact that Kenyan troops are currently involved in a war to get rid of the Al-Shabaab terror gang in Somalia. Their terror activities in Kenya are thus seen as retaliatory. In the same way, supporters of terror activities against the United States believe that it is the only means through which they can avenge their own who have died in the Middle East because of the operations by the United States army.
Smilansky (2004) highlights various issues that make terrorist activities illegal. Firstly, acts of terrorism are associated with deliberate violence and the destruction of innocent lives. Since these acts lead to the death of victims, they are strongly opposed. However, from Osama bin Laden’s declaration, some terror activities can be justified morally (Hunt, 1996). From the same declaration, a violent activity that is undertaken as a means of bringing an end to suffering is morally acceptable.
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The same applies if a person uses violence as a means of self-defense or to defend another person (Frowe, 2015). Secondly, terror activities may be carried out as part of a campaign to advance a person’s political ideas. When an individual indulges in violence to gain political mileage at the expense of others, it is morally unacceptable. And thirdly, acts of terrorism are often directed at a smaller group of people with the ultimate objective of affecting a larger number of people. Certainly, this is wrong since wars can only be conducted between two opposing military states and not unilaterally against innocent people.
The abovementioned scenarios paint terrorism the wrong way and point to the fact that it is wicked. Perpetrators should thus be subjected to heavy punishment. In several studies, suggestions about justifying certain cases of terrorism in the sense of political violence against civilians have strongly been opposed (Smilansky, 2004). As a result, every single act of terrorism is immoral and thus against the well-being of humanity.
Supporters of terrorism on the other hand have argued that terrorism is the last resort that is mainly relied upon when all other avenues of dialog fail. They also believe that terrorism can be justified in the case of national liberation movements fighting against states (Hunt, 1996). Also, advocates believe that unlike other options, terrorism does in fact work and can achieve the desired goals of the perpetrators.
As has been discussed in this paper, there are two sides to terrorism. On the one hand, terrorism is illegal and quite unacceptable. On the other hand, terrorism may be justified depending on the prevailing circumstances. When terrorism is used in self-defense, for example, it can be justified. However, when used to harm innocent people, terrorism can never be tolerated.
Frowe, H. (2015). The ethics of war and peace. New York, NY: Routledge.
Hunt, G. (1996). Declaration of war against the Americans occupying the land of the two holy places. Web.
Smilansky, S. (2004). Terrorism, justification, and illusion. Web.