Defining terror: Why the London beheading was a terrorist act

(Manhattan, NY) - The brutality and horror witnessed in broad daylight in the middle of a busy London street left a country stunned. A beheading was committed by two men armed with a meat cleaver against a British soldier. The attackers even gloated about their actions on video to justify their savagery as revenge for the role British soldiers, in general, played in Afghanistan and Iraq.

British Prime Minister David Cameron immediately condemned the killing as an act of terrorism. While some have questioned the use of the terrorism label in this case, Zachary Goldman, Executive Director for the NYU Center on Law and Security, said he believed Cameron was right and on point.

“I think the political motive is clearly here and the use of terrorism is probably appropriate,” said Goldman.

Goldman defined terrorism as “violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror); are perpetrated for a religious or political or ideological goal.” In this incident, Goldman said defining the gruesome killing as an act of terror the political statements were made

Goldman also said, in his opinion, defining the gruesome killing as an act of terror had more to do with the political statements made by the suspects and not simply because they were Muslim.

“The definition of terrorism isn’t linked to religious tradition and that’s important to note and important to remember,” said Goldman.

Muneer Awad, of the Council for American Islamic Relations, however, believes the label should be used with more caution. His concern, he said, has more to do with an entire faith being condemned because of the actions of two extremists.

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