Last week, I followed with interest the media reactions on Internet websites and US news channels regarding the crashing of a private plane into a federal government building in the State of Texas. After the initial confusion and concern, and after checking with witnesses and videotapes, the incident became clear and the possibility that it was an act of terrorism was discarded. It was concluded that, while the act was indeed deliberate, it was an individual one and committed for personal motives: suicide and revenge against the Federal Tax Office perpetrated by a US national who was the pilot of the plane. The incident led to the death of a few people and caused extensive damage to the building and its contents. It also caused a huge fire that lasted for hours.
Nonetheless, the incident was not considered to be an act of terrorism! It is now clear that that there is an unwritten definition of terrorism. The difference between this incident, whose nature was a plane crashing into a large building and objective was to produce victims and the death of people in a large building, and similar acts of terrorism is the religion and name of the perpetrator. The media seem to have fallen in a trap and swallowed the bait, deliberately or unwittingly. Terrorism can be committed by a single person. In fact, this is what was done by Timothy McVeigh when he destroyed a major government building in the State of Oklahoma, leaving hundreds dead and causing huge damage. It can be also perpetrated by groups, organizations, and militias. There are many known examples of this and, nonetheless, they are not described as acts of terrorism. The extremist protestant groups that used to regularly blow up abortion clinics in the United States and assassinate doctors and nurses working there were not called terrorists. This applies to the armed groups that want independence from the US Federal Government. Most of them live in the northwestern states like Wyoming, Utah, and Montana. There have been many clashes between them and the federal forces, leaving many dead and wounded, yet they too are not called terrorists. This is despite their clear intentions and objectives that are made public on their Internet sites, at their meetings, and in their books and publications.
Naturally, the Jewish Defense League is also not called terrorist. It is a very extremist Jewish organization that has assassinated university professors and political activists without being seriously pursued and treated as a terrorist organization, even though it is based in the United States. In fact, it is from this organization that the patriarchs of extremism in the Palestinian territories have “graduated,” such as Baruch Goldstein, the perpetrator of the well-known Al-Aqsa massacre, and Meir Kahana, who is known for his aggressive extremism.
Terrorism has no religion, identity, or form; therefore, coining a specific and precise profile of terrorism means ignoring realities and acting in a most subjective way. It means also a naive and perfidious simplification of an extremely complicated issue.
Terrorism has several forms, and causes horrendous damage. It is not restricted to a specific society, religion, or ethnic group. True, Muslims have their own problems, complexes, and challenges, but then is there anyone without problems? Ask Christians in India about their bitter suffering from violent Hindu extremism, and the problems that emerged there because of this. Ask the Indians in Sri Lanka about their suffering under the ruling Buddhist extremists and the extremist treatment. Ask the Catholics in Northern Ireland about their suffering under the Protestants for years, which led to fear, concern, death, and destruction. Ask the Russians, the Chinese, and the populations of the former South Yemen and Ethiopia about what communism did to them, because they did not believe in it and refused to follow it without discussion. Ask the Cambodians about what the Khmer Rouge did to them in the biggest massacre of modern history. All these are vivid examples of extremism and terrorism, but they are “glorified” with the appellation of terrorism, which seems to be the lot of a specific group and a religion.
What happened in Texas in the form of a plane crashing into a government building is an act of terrorism par excellence, perpetrated by an individual that has his own motivations. It should be dealt with on this basis so that everybody may not fall in the trap that is laid by some.