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October 25, 2022

The interchangeable use of the terms “Terrorism” and “Violent Extremism”

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The terms “terrorism” and “violent extremism” are often used interchangeably, which is often a controversial topic. However, there are a few key points to consider when thinking about this issue. First, it is important to understand the different definitions of “terrorism” and “violent extremism.” Universally, there does not exist an agreed upon definition of the two concepts, nonetheless, there are a number of definitions developed at different levels. That said, violent extremism is regarded as a broader concept than terrorism. Looking at the VE Action Plan, the UN Secretary-General observes that “violent extremism encompasses a wider category of manifestations” than terrorism since it includes forms of ideologically motivated violence that fall short of constituting terrorist acts (General Assembly report A/70/674, para. 4).

Terrorism is typically defined as the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. Violent extremism, on the other hand, is often defined as the use of violence in pursuit of any goal, whether it be political, religious, or social.

The use of the term “violent extremism” instead of “terrorism” is often seen as a way to avoid singling out any one group or ideology. This is because the term “terrorism” is often associated with Islam and Islamic extremism. It is important to consider the different connotations of the two terms. “Terrorism” has often been used to describe the actions of groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, which are widely seen as evil and inhuman. However, there are many other groups that engage in terrorist activities, such as white supremacists, environmental activists, and animal rights activists. The use of the term “violent extremism” can also be seen as a way to downplay the seriousness of the violence. This is because the term is often used to describe low-level violence, such as protests or riots. However, there have been many cases of violent extremism that have resulted in death and destruction, such as the Westgate, Garissa University, Dusit Complex, Kenyan US Embassy bombings and the 9/11 attacks.

Some people argue that the use of the term “violent extremism” is a way to avoid confronting the root causes of the violence. This is because the term is often used to describe the symptoms of the problem, rather than the cause. For example, poverty, racism, and religious hatred are often cited as root causes of violent extremism. Others argue that the use of the term “violent extremism” is a way to sugarcoat the violence and make it seem less threatening. This is because the term is often used to describe violence that is not particularly deadly or destructive. The big question however is, is it not the right strategy to solve a problem, which in this case is Terrorism, by addressing its root causes, in this case, “violent extremism”?

Eventually, there is no easy answer to whether or not “terrorism” and “violent extremism” can be used interchangeably. It is a complex issue with many different factors to consider. Whether or not the terms “terrorism” and “violent extremism” are interchangeable depends on how you define them. If you define them narrowly, then they are not interchangeable. However, if you define them more broadly, then they are.