Hornbill Unleashed

September 29, 2016

When the term ‘terrorist’ loses meaning

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 9:01 PM

Malaysian politicians, just like their international counterparts, often excel at the talk, particularly if it of the excessively flowery kind that can be enough to give the listener an allergy problem. Whether they are as good as walking that talk, of course, remains exceedingly subjective — but if there is one thing that our leaders know how to do, it is to talk a good game and impress the rest of their peers who are all equally guilty of being mendacious for the most part.

Just recently, our Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi spoke at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, where he called for the world to unite in the fight against terror.

“Malaysia joins others in calling for robust and effective international actions in our collective fight against terrorism. Such efforts must be based on and in full respect of the UN Charter and universally recognised principles of law, including international humanitarian and human rights laws,” he said, adding that terrorism had to be tackled from the ideological perspective.

Zahid also highlighted Malaysia’s deradicalisation and rehabilitation programmes towards changing the mindsets of radicalised extremist individuals.

The term “terrorist” itself is starting to become problematic in this day and age. Let’s look at the basics. The word “terrorist” is defined as “a person who uses terrorism in the pursuit of political aims”, and some synonyms for the term include “extremist” and “fanatic”.

The word “terrorism” itself has three definitions: “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes”; “the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorisation”; and “a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government”.

Now, amongst the many gems of world wisdom that have risen again and spread like wildfire thanks to the Internet is the phrase: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. So just like everything else, what it means truly depends on both the context, and on the person using the term. So what do we make of it when His Holiness Pope Francis warns reporters that spreading rumours is a form of terrorism?

How about George Zimmerman, who was controversially acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin, saying that the Black Lives Matter movement is a “terrorist” group? Or the countless millions who now automatically label anyone with a hijab or a keffiyah as a terrorist, even if all they did was show up to the beach covered in clothes?

Closer to home, we have the case of lawyer Noorhajran Mohd Noor calling online news portal Malaysiakini a terrorist for “terrorising the government”. This case is even more deliciously ironic, because the comments were made at a forum on street rallies organised by Gerakan Merah leader Mohamad Ali Baharom (Ali Tinju) — who himself was recently detained the police due to alleged threats that he made, which he laughingly denied but was later forced to retract when evidence was duly provided.

Based on the “use of violence and threats” definition alone means that Ali Tinju is undoubtedly guilty of terrorism — as are many of the local movement leaders who are eager to agitate and “counter” protests by taking up arms. So does this mean that they will be kept on watch, and that they will be acted upon if they break the peace?

Seeing as how they all happen to be supportive of the incumbent government, Malaysians can be forgiven for snorting so loudly that they can probably push the haze back to where it came from.

By all means, dear politicians, say the right things at the right time — or even at all time, really. But if you don’t follow this up with appropriate and just actions, all you are doing is destabilising societal peace — which means that the real terrorists have already won.

Ahmad Azrai@The Heat Malaysia Online

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