CHAPTER
 
The Problem of Understanding Terrorism
in Tehmina Saqib, et al, ed, Terrorism and Extremism: Social-Psychological Perspectives (Islamabad: National Institute of Psychology, 2009), pp 30-36
Terrorism is a highly complex phenomenon, but attempts to explain it are often quite simplistic, revolving around a number of abstract articulations and generalizations, such as “one-man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” This paper points out some of these simplicities, explains why they arise and offers a perspective to understand terrorism with all of its complexities. Issues of terrorism which are simplistically explained are linked to some vital questions such as what terrorism is, what its purposes and goals are, whether it is a means or an end, how far religion plays a role in it. Terrorism is a label that no individual or group is willing to accept, what to speak of a state that under international law has the right to use force, however with some conditions. Consequently, there is no consensus yet on the definition of terrorism. However, when terrorism occurs, we know very well what it is. It is the psychological impact of terrorism that distinguishes it from other acts of politically motivated violence such as war. It is this peculiarity of terrorism that this paper will attempt to explain. Full Text