While madmen behind the wheel, crazed gunmen and suicide bombers infiltrate our lives on a daily basis, the vexed question arises: what constitutes ‘terrorism’? When is an atrocious act labelled as ‘terrorism’ or a sole act by a mentally deranged individual? Who gets to decide if the act falls and can be labelled, as with a word, which has no certain definition, and is twisted and used by the politicians for their own political motives? Politicians will go to any lengths to influence the minds and gain votes, and use the word ‘terror’ to their advantage; playing ‘piper’ to the public at large, only furthering their personal agendas. Over the period of time, the United Nations has not been able to come to terms as to what ‘terrorism’ is or what a ‘terrorist’ looks like. Is it a person who wears a turban and supports a long beard or a person who goes out on a killing spree: clean shaven, wearing shorts and a hoodie? No matter the physical appearance of the accused, what the masses at large will have to concede to is that mass killings are truly a diabolical act and have to be dealt with accordingly. What might and might not constitute terrorism depends on the perception of the individuals in question;what might be deemed as a cowardly and despicable act by one nation, another might term it as a holy duty, based on religious covenants and patriotism. An act by 21-year-old Dylan Roof,who killed members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston,South Carolina on 17 June 2015 was immediately labelled as a hate crime and a terrorist act,whereas army major Nadal Hassan,who killed 13 people in 2009 at Fort Hood, Texas was not labelled as a terrorist,even though he had told investigators he shot the soldiers because they were ‘going against the Islamic Empire’. The reasoning behind that is that the Army could more easily and swiftly try him on charges of murder and attempted murder, without the predicament of proving him as a terrorist. State institutions have long distorted and used the word to their own advantage. When it can be used in their favour, they would go out of the way to label an act as such and take a complete digression when it’s not. The term terrorist is the worst of the worst and has been used mostly for people belonging to a particular religion or dark-skinned people. Politicians use the term all the time, whereas academics try not to. Was the wiping out of Native Americans by European settlers or the mass murders of Black African slaves in colonial America or the Mormon Extinction order passed in the 1830s by the governor of Missouri terrorist acts? Or were they merely acts conducted in good faith; furthering the patriotism and holiness of the perpetrators? What constitutes terrorism and what not varies from nation to nation. Was the wiping of Native Americans by European settlers or the mass murders of Black African slaves in colonial America or the Mormon Extinction order passed in the 1830s, by the governor of Missouri terrorist acts or were they merely acts conducted in good faith; furthering the patriotism and holiness of the perpetrators? It depends on the thought process and the individuals in question. Whatever the shortcomings and the difficulty in defining the term, we for sure know that killing is horrendous no matter where on earth, by whosoever, it is committed. The threat is everywhere; in our schools, airports, shopping malls, religious places and it is something we encounter on a daily basis. Nations usually use the term in connection with criminalities conducted by those from outside the borders. If for some reason we disagree on what constitutes terrorism, we know that it is out there and has to be dealtwith. We for sure know that it is something that has impacted every aspect of our lives adversely. The writer is a corporate lawyer and an alumnus of SOAS, University of London. He can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, May 23rd 2018.