Towards a Sudanese Humanitarian Vision on Violent Extremism
This paper highlights some key theoretical issues relating to violent extremism and their relevance and compatibility with Sudanese reality, and accordingly presents practical proposals and recommendations. By violent extremism, we mean convictions and practices that deliberately target civilians and non-combatants with violence to achieve ideological, religious, political or economic goals. We use the terms violent extremism, terrorism, and brutal violence as synonyms.
Terms and Concepts
Many scholars in this field agree that there is no single comprehensive definition of terrorism, and one expert has counted 109 definitions of the term. This is because the interpretation of the term itself is colored by contentious social and ideological currents and is defined and approached based on these different perspectives.
In general, the writings of Western specialists tend to expand the scope of “terrorism” to the extent that some use the term to stigmatize any political or ideological violence perpetrated by groups or individuals other than the state. While this expansion may be justified in the West, where democratic regimes prevails, allowing for the condemnation of the practice of any violence against them, other specialists have noted that such an expanded use of the term would render resistance to colonialism, fascism and Nazism as “terrorism.” While this is wrong in essence, it also points to the ideological manipulation and use of the term.
The roots of the modern use of the term terrorism go back to the French Revolution, from the Latin word “Terrere”, meaning “horrified-freezes” – a horror that freezes the blood in one’s veins. Initially, it described the methods used by the Jacobins – a radical revolutionary force whose ascendance lasted from June 1793 to July 1794, and is known as the Reign of Terror. It was also used by the philosopher Edmund Burke in 1795 to describe the various forms of intimidation used by the regime in France, i.e. to rule through repression and terror.
Many reject the equation of the terrorism of the French Revolution with current forms of terrorism and present a number of arguments. The most important of these arguments is that the Jacobin violence was an exceptional and temporary, intended to breed a new society that would establish processes for the peaceful transfer of power. Current forms of terrorism, however, are seen as either dark violence intended to revert to a past pattern that is practically impossible to achieve or a violence without a purpose whose only aim is revenge.