The commonly accepted meaning of the word terrorism is any use of terror in the form of violence or threats meant to coerce an individual, group, or entity to act in a manner in which any person or group could not otherwise lawfully force them to act. The world community has struggled with creating a legal definition of terrorism that is globally accepted. In the United States, it is broken down into two categories: international and domestic.
The main characteristics of acts or threats that constitute terrorism are the same as in the wider definition above, but additional details have been added under these categories. Both include violent acts or any actions that endanger human life or violate U.S. laws, both federal and state. The definition further clarifies that these acts appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce civilians — collectively — or to intimidate or coerce changes in governmental policy or government conduct through the use of mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.
The main difference between the two definitions is the inclusion under international terrorism that clarifies criminal violations as those that would be construed as such if committed in U.S. federal or state jurisdiction. The other distinction describes where the acts occur. International terrorism occurs primarily outside the “territorial jurisdiction” of the United States, while domestic primarily occurs within U.S. jurisdiction.
Despite the legal definitions, terrorism means different things to different people. While the threat to the modern world appears to involve more Islamist extremists than any other type of terrorist, it should be clearly acknowledged that not all Muslims are terrorists and not all terrorists are Muslim. In fact, many Muslims are in as much danger under the radicalized practices of Islam as any other people, because they divert from the extremist interpretation of Islam.
Terrorism has been around for centuries, although it’s been defined or described differently throughout the years. Today, it amounts to bullying, only on a grand scale, because these bullies have powerful weapons and fighters who embrace death as martyrdom. There is nothing more dangerous than a terrorist who believes that he has nothing to lose.