Recently I was together with some brethren from my church community, and the talk turned to terrorism; a lively debate occurred around just what exactly constitutes a terrorist. One brother contended that anyone, whether part of an organization or whether a ‘lone wolf’, who committed an act of violence for a political end met the definition of terrorist, while another argued that traditionally, the definition of terrorist typically excluded lone wolves in favour of members of organizations, e.g. the I.R.A., the P.L.O., etc., who had very definite ends towards which they were hoping the violence they were committing were means.
I found it an interesting discussion, and I find myself musing on the matter. Should we exclude the likes of Timothy McVeigh or the Parliament Hill shooter or the recent Quebec City murderer from the definition of terrorist, and save it only for ISIS, al Qaeda, etc.? Or should the definition be broad enough to encompass both members of organizations promoting violence and lone wolves operating alone?
I incline towards the term being broad-based enough to include both, but I do think a distinction needs to be drawn between mass murderers who may have hatred towards a specific group motivating them but who aren’t aiming for a specific goal, just acting on their hatred, and those who hope to, say, foment a race war or something such.
What do you think?