Here is my second post on things that Dr. McCloud, Michael and I have been discussing and working on in the office. This time, our conversation was about rebellion and rulership, and how that translates into the modern questions of statehood and terrorism.
The Black Panthers could so easily be seen as a threat not by their visual icon of the AK-47, but because of the very notion that they could have the discipline and organization to groom, feed, and tutor children without the authority of the state. That is, without needing the servitude of the self to the state.
So what makes a terrorist organization? The IRA, the many-faceted Irish militia with the goal of expelling the British from their colonial land-grabs; the ELF, the organization with the aim of destroying infrastructure that destroys and exploits the Earth; the gangsters shooting up innocents on the South Side of Chicago; the United States’ military drones indiscriminately firing missiles at civilian compounds in Afghanistan. What do these have in common?
I’ll leave that an open question.
What makes a terrorist act?
Let’s cross-examine these characteristics with a Qur’anic implication found in Sura Qur’aysh:
For the covenants (of security and safeguard enjoyed) by the Quraish,
Their covenants (covering) journeys by winter and summer,-
Let them adore the Lord of this House,
Who provides them with food against hunger, and with security against fear (of danger).
This sura speaks clearly of security against fear in particular as a gift from God. This is a positive thing, and therefore the absence of this security is a negative thing. God provides people with this security, so what right does a person, a creature, have to take this away from people in a way that God has not divinely ordained?
Terrorist actions are then:
2. Concerning a variety (or indiscriminate types) of targets, and
3. Concerning actors that have exploitable features (that the public can then use to justify their own hatred of these actors.
All these characteristics promote public fear. The second point in this list also involves in combat possible noncombatants (not innocents), which the Qur’an prohibits attacking. The juristic understandings of war also usually claim that a war is public insofaras the enemy knows that it is coming. Unexpected attacks are problematic for this reason. And so the exploitable features of the third point become more open, resonant, and exploitable.