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Terrorism - Third Point

We may focus, in any act or conduct, on two determining factors:

1. The motives of the perpetrator.

2. The human acceptability of the act itself.

These are not inseparable aspects. The personal motives of the perpetrator may look humane to him but not so to the public. Conversely, the perpetrator may have no human purpose in mind or may indeed have a purpose that he perceives to be inhumane but is considered from the public point of view to be a humane act.

Therefore, viewpoints may differ in the judgement whether such an act is good or evil (usuli jurisprudents have done a great deal of valuable research on the rational basis of differentiating between good and evil deeds, but this is not the place to go into it). What must be stated here is that neither of the factors, taken separately, is sufficient to determine the acceptability or the reprehensibility of an act or to judge such an act positively or negatively. A positive assessment in regard to both factors must be carried out in order to judge and act.

Consequently, we have to ensure objectivity in our investigation in order to find a criterion for identifying the acceptability and humanity of an act from the standpoints of both Islam and mankind in general.

As regards the Islamic standpoint, we have to refer to the principles, concepts and judgements which relate to the question of terrorism - in its literal sense - to give a general definition of condemnable terrorism, i.e. the terrorism that is rejected by Islam as contrary to the process of the human being's perfection determined by God Almighty for mankind through human nature and prescribed through revelation.

When referring to Islamic teachings, we find that Islam is very rich in this field, and we notice that Islamic jurists have delved into the various aspects that relate to the subject.

We have the judgements on al-baghy, i.e. armed revolt by a group against a just and legitimate government, intimidation of the general public, and pursuit of divisive political goals that damage national unity.

We also have the judgements on al-harabah, which is defined as "the use of weapons, on land or sea, by day or night, to intimidate people, in a city or elsewhere, by a male or female, strong or weak." God Almighty declares in the Qur'an:

- This is the recompense of those who fight against God and His Messenger, and spread corruption in the land. they shall be put to death, or crucified, or have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or be banished from the land. That is a degradation for them in this world; and in the next awaits them a mighty chastisement (5:33)

As may be noticed, the verse mentions the subject and the purpose, namely war against society and spreading of corruption in the land. It has also mentioned the severe punishment to be dealt out to the perpetrators, which points to Islam's concern for the subject.

There are also the laws about theft and murder which can be mentioned in this regard. Likewise, we come across in Islamic texts terms which relate to the matter at hand, such as homicide(al-fatk), deceit (al-ghilah), and seditious conspiracy (al-'i'timar).

There are also texts which stipulate utmost respect for covenants and treaties even if it is discovered later that they favour the other party. As long as he adheres to their provisions, these must be observed.

Furthermore, we have the requirements of the Islamic ethical system which consists of concepts unknown to positive law yet are deeply-rooted in this system. Lying may, for instance, reach the degree of a major sin and so may calumny. We thus find that Islam seeks earnestly to protect all kinds of true human freedoms, and to defend the dignity of the individual and society, as well as the cohesion of society and integrity of the family, considering any attack on them to be an atrocious crime liable to the sternest punishment which may go as far as execution, crucifixion and the like.

Islam upholds the principle of personal responsibility and considers any attack on innocent people as a major crime. It focuses on the defence of the weak, the humble and the oppressed and enjoins jihad for their protection:

- And why should you not fight for the cause of Allah, and for the helpless old men and women.... (4:75)

The Muslim is required to always stand up for the oppressed until they get their rights. Imam 'Ali (A) gave this advice to his two sons:

- Be opponents of the oppressor and defenders of the oppressed.

He also said:

- To me the lowly are noble until I get their rights for them, and the powerful are weak until I get such rights from them.

Perhaps the mention in the Holy Qur'an of the blessing of security "And hath made them safe from fear" (106:4) is the best proof of the importance it attaches to security.

However, it would take too long to elaborate on all the related matters. Nevertheless we wish to state that the first criterionfor identifying humaneness is the intention of the perpetrator and the general acceptability of his act is Din with all its spirit, laws and concepts.

Turning our attention to the second framework, namely the general human framework, we can accept those principles that are unanimously respected by mankind as represented by its official organs, its popular organizations, its conscience and sentiments, as another set of criteria to determine the presence of humaneness or its opposite in the intention of the perpetrator, and of the above-mentioned general acceptability(although we believe the two criteria to be mostly overlapping).

As an example of the foregoing, we may notice the present unanimity of mankind in considering the following as inhuman:

- prostitution and the disintegration of family relationships;
- narcotics and the disintegration of individual's rational personality;
- colonialism and the undermining of peoples' dignity and plundering of their resources;
- racism and the disintegration of human brotherhood;
- violation of all recognized rights and the breaking of covenants:
- bombardment of populated areas, use of chemical weapons. attacks on civil aviation, national railways, commercial and tourist vessels, and similar methods which are universally condemned in war.

There is no divergence whatsoever as regards the anti-human nature of the above instances. Therefore, these and similar violations suggest the acceptable criteria which should form the basis of our definition, and any act to eliminate and oppose them is a human act which must be supported if itself not accompanied by violation of other human values.

Adapted from: "Towards a Definition of Terrorism" by: "Ayatullah Taskhiri"

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