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In the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, the world has many questions but one of the more prominent questions surfacing is “how do you define a terrorist?” Also Read - UP on High Alert: Two Terrorists Nabbed in Lucknow, Al Qaeda Module Busted | All You Need to Know
Part of the problem in labeling and defining terrorism is that there is no universally accepted definition, according to the State Department. Also Read - Jammu and Kashmir: 11 Govt Employees, Including 2 Cops, Sacked Over Links With Terror Outfits
The State’s version says sub-national groups, not states can commit acts of terrorism that are politically motivated but doesn’t talk about groups that spread fear. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines terrorism as the illegal use of force/violence for intimidation but doesn’t require there to be any political motivation. Lastly, the FBI says terrorism is the unlawful use of force/violence against a person or property to intimidate a government or civilians due to political or social motivations.
In the first 164 days of this year, there have been 136 mass shootings. So who were terrorists and who just had mental health issues?
Social media shows that people are divided. Some say Islam breeds terrorists and all the terrorists in the media have been Muslim. Others remind the world that terrorists are extremists and don’t represent an entire faith or group of people. And then there are those asking this question:
When Omar Mateen’s name was released as the shooter in the Pulse nightclub shooting, he was widely labeled as a terrorist and linked to terrorism.
According to Merriam-Webster, terrorism is defined as ‘the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.’
Others argue that in the post 9/11 climate if white males are the culprits in mass shootings, they are more likely to be labeled as mentally ill rather than terrorists. Here are a few shooters who have not specifically been labeled as terrorists.
Dylann Roof, who was the shooter in the 2015 Charleston church shooting, believed “blacks are taking over the world.”
James Wesley Howell, the man from Indiana who was arrested in Los Angeles with an arsenal of weapons, was running from child molestation charges and said he wanted to “harm the gay pride event.”
Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old who fatally shot 20 children and six adults in Newton, Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary.
James Holmes, the man who killed 12 people and injured 70 in the Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
It should be noted that Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh were both labeled as terrorists in the pre-9/11 climate. But since 9/11, the labeling of terrorism has become skewed.
If we are to look at social media today, people are saying that the reality of defining a terrorist in a mass shooting is that whoever the shooter is, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion is a terrorist.