Terrorist or extremist activity
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What is terrorism and violent extremist activity?
Trying to define terrorism can be difficult and controversial, because so many people and countries see it differently. But any definition usually includes:
- mass intimidation - trying to make lots of people scared to go about their everyday or normal life
- unlawful violence or the threat of violence against the public
- violence intended to change a law, culture or political system, or to change how people think or act
Having extreme thoughts or beliefs is not a crime. Using unlawful force or threats to support a belief or ideology is.
These criminal acts can include threatening someone because they are a different race, religion or sexual orientation; causing damage to property to get a political point of view across; or setting off a bomb to kill or injure people.
Case Study 1
On July 7 2005 four men set off home-made bombs on three London underground trains and a bus, killing 52 people and injuring over 700 more. The bombers were also killed.
Case Study 2
In September 2009 a 44-year-old man from Reading, Berkshire, was found guilty of terrorist-related offences after amassing components and material at his home which could be used to make incendiary and explosive devices. He had also collected far right extremist material.
Case Study 3
In January 2009 seven animal rights extremists were jailed for their part in a campaign to intimidate and blackmail people connected with an animal testing company. The campaign included sending letters to workers threatening violence against their children.
Why does terrorism or violent extremism happen?
There are many reasons to explain why it may happen but whatever the excuse is, these are criminal acts that cannot be justified under any circumstances.
Why do people get involved in terrorism or violent extremism?
There are many reasons why this may happen. Here are just some:
- a lack of identitiy or belonging
- defending their culture, way of life or beliefs
- they may be pressured, or bullied into it
- they may have been radicalised by violent extremist groups
- they may want retaliation
Those who encourage or get others to commit acts of violent extremism often target vulnerable people who are led into believing that violence or criminality can earn respect, riches or even glory.
However, even though a person may feel angry about something they believe is unfair this does not mean they should attack or threaten any person or any community.
Who are terrorists or violent extremists?
They can come from any background, any community, or any religion or belief. They can be young or old, male or female, rich or poor. They believe that violence or terrorism is an acceptable way of changing how others think or behave.