According to the United Nations Security Council, terrorism is described 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”. But what are the actual components of terrorism? There are several aspects involved:
Fear: This is perhaps the most crucial factor. The goal is to strike terror into the minds of a victim. Terrorism is often thought of as a psychological warfare because it is done to intimidate people and cause them to cooperate out of fear of further retaliation. That is why terrorist acts tend to be done on a large scale – to impact as many people as possible.
Violence: The threat of harm or death is an essential factor in terrorism. The danger presented is most often to people and property. Most incidents of terrorism at least involve the possibility of a significant loss of life.
Political or Religious Cause: Some people argue that terrorism is done strictly for political reasons. The overthrow of current leadership or the destruction of a political enemy is commonly at the root of a terrorist attack. Many feel that terrorism is often motivated by religious beliefs as well. Militant groups who believe that other religions are heretical may use violence to try and destroy their followers.
Civilian Targets: Unlike in standard warfare, terrorism is generally aimed at civilian targets. This is one of the reasons fear is so involved, the general populace is not safe from a terrorist attack. The goal is to send a clear message that the political or religious beliefs of the people will not be tolerated, and to motivate their leaders to succumb to the demands of the terrorist organization.
No one who is not directly involved may ever be able to fully understand exactly why an act of terrorism is undertaken. It is, however, possible to investigate the components that are at the root of terrorism and utilize that information to help determine how to better protect the citizens of any land that may be under the threat of a terrorist attack.