Vigilance the key | Daily News

Vigilance the key

Terrorism takes many forms, but at its core, the goal is nearly always the same. Terrorism subverts our liberties, our values and our way of life. We in Sri Lanka have experienced the worst atrocities that can be committed by terrorists in the name of ‘liberation’. We suffered for 30 long years as a result of LTTE terrorism and now we have faced the advent of fundamentalist Jihadist terrorism on our soil for the first time. Terrorists of all hues often claim to be fighting for freedom, but that is the very thing that they take away.

What exactly is terrorism? There is no single accepted definition of terrorism. There are more than 100 definitions of the word, the first use of which was recorded in 1795 in the London Times. The US Federal Bureau of Investigations defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a Government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

As the reference to 1795 shows, terrorism is not altogether a new phenomenon. But it is only in the last three or four decades that terrorism has reached today’s proportions. In fact, the 9/11 attack in New York on September 11, 2001 was one of the biggest terror attacks in living memory. The tragic events in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday have also been described as one of the biggest ever terror attacks after 9/11.

It has also become evident that terrorist groups learn from and collaborate with, each other. The perpetrators of the heinous events of Easter Sunday had apparently been inspired by and received assistance from ISIS judging by news reports. Terrorism in one country cannot be treated as an isolated chain of events. The world community realized that all countries could be affected by terrorism and the UN has passed several resolutions to contain acts of terrorism. Moreover, as terrorists get pushed away from certain regions, they try to infiltrate into other regions. It is no secret that the ISIS, which has been ousted from its strongholds, is trying to gain a foothold in the rest of Asia.

No matter what happens, it is important not to give in to domestic or global terrorism. The Americans were resilient following 9/11 and resolved not to let their nation be haunted by the tragedy, although it was an unspeakable horror. Sri Lankans too, had always stood up to terrorism as one through countless killings and bombings, which is one reason why the LTTE could be defeated in the end. It will not be different this time. People worldwide have shown that terrorism cannot take their freedoms away, even if lives can be snuffed out. The world must help those nations and peoples who have been affected by the scars of terrorism.

One inevitable fallout of the battle against terrorism has been a restriction of personal liberties which had been taken for granted. Yes, these measures can sometimes be humiliating and inconvenient, but they are also necessary. It might not always be possible to balance security and liberty concerns while battling terrorism. Having enjoyed peace for the last 10 years, Sri Lankans once again have to get used to more strict security measures, but this is for the greatest good of the greatest number. There are always accusations of racial profiling whenever one or two communities are targeted for extra scrutiny, but we have to bear in mind that this is sometimes inevitable.

Despite the best efforts of many countries, many terror groups are still active and pose a threat to humanity. There should be greater international cooperation to share intelligence and fight terrorism. In fact, at least one country warned Sri Lankan authorities prior to the Easter Sunday attacks. Several expert terms have arrived here from the UK, USA and Interpol to assist in the investigations. Such cooperation and intelligence sharing are essential to thwart the designs of terrorists.

There should be no pauses in the campaign against terrorism. As the saying goes, Governments have to be lucky all the time, whereas terrorists have to be lucky only once. Eternal vigilance is the only answer. If you notice anything or anyone suspicious, inform the authorities immediately. In the prevailing situation, the Muslim community has a significant role to play in informing the authorities of any instances of radicalization they come across. Indeed, information given by Muslims who abhor the terrorists’ misuse of religious edicts has been invaluable in tracking down many of those involved in the Easter Sunday carnage.

Terrorists must not be allowed to destroy our democratic and moral values, even if they succeed in destroying our mortal lives. They must not be allowed to destroy our societies and our future. Do remember that terrorists have no regard for lives, regardless of ethnicity or religion - some of the biggest attacks of the ISIS have been against Muslim countries and mosques. It is only the collective will of Sri Lankans and eternal vigilance that will defeat the horrifying plans of terrorists.

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