Was It Terrorism?

There is no generally accepted definition of terrorism but the factors typically mentioned in definitions usually include:

  • Unlawful
  • Use of violence or intimidation
  • Against civilians
  • With political objectives

Webster’s definition is “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion”.

Hence my question. Was the guy driving his van into a group of people coming out of a mosque in Finsbury Park in North London and shrieking “I want to kill more Muslims” committing an act of terrorism? He’s apparently being charged with terrorism.

I don’t believe it is terrorism because there are no indications it had the political objectives associated with a terrorist attack. I also don’t think the guy was crazy. I think he was angry.

Here’s the thing. I don’t think that the attacks in Westminster, Manchester, or London Bridge were terrorist attacks either because I don’t think they were intended to produce political results, at least not political results within the United Kingdom. I think that more than anything else they are intended to signal the virtue of the perpetrators to other Muslims, perverse as that may sound, although they might have been expressions of anger, too, or hatred or just plain crazy.

So, that’s my question. Was it terrorism? If you think it was, please supply your definition of terrorism, taking care that your definition does not overflow its banks and drown any meaningful use of the word.

Originally posted at The Glittering Eye