Understanding terrorism

Terrorism is a violent strategy used by various people and groups to achieve a certain goal. Read on to understand more about what terrorism is, the reasons why it happens, and how to cope with the media coverage around terrorism.

Understanding terrorism

What is terrorism?

It might seem like terrorism is a new phenomenon, but in reality it’s existed for 2000 years. Terrorism is the use or threat of violence that aims to spread fear in a population, and to advance a political, ideological or religious cause

It’s important to understand that not all violent acts are terrorist acts. Terrorism is more of a strategy than just a random act of violence, as it always includes some sort of political, ideological or religious motivation on the part of the perpetrators. The reasons behind why a group or individual would carry out a terrorist act vary.

Why does terrorism happen?

Terrorism can be motivated by religious extremism, as seen in the rise of Islamist terrorism since the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001. Religiously motivated terrorism has also been carried out in the name of Christianity. The 2011 terrorist attack in Norway and several attacks on abortion clinics in the US were motivated by religious extremism and by an opposition to women’s rights. 

Terrorism can also be motivated by political views, which may overlap with religious reasons. For example, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings were carried out to send a message to the US government about FBI operations. 

Coping with news of terrorism

It’s a completely normal response to feel down when bad world news happens. Sometimes we can feel a whole bunch of emotions, including anger, fear and confusion. Allow yourself to feel however you feel.

Our phones and the internet make it too easy to stay in the bad-news loop, even when we don’t want to be. Try to tune out and take a break if you’re feeling bombarded with bad news.

If you’ve been finding it especially tough, it may be worth speaking to someone you trust or even getting help from a professional.
Last reviewed: 17 February, 2017
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