Terrorism is an Attack on Human Rights of All. By Jeffrey Imm


If we consistently recognized terrorism as an attack on our shared universal human rights, our campaigns against acts of terror and terrorist's extremist ideology could have more productive priorities.  In recognizing victims and demonizing terrorist criminals, the human rights argument is too quickly lost.  Law enforcement, spying, and military solutions are not the only solutions to address terror.

We need a human rights-based approach to rejection of terrorist acts and anti-human rights extremist views; we must recognize such terrorist acts and ideologiesas an assault against the rights, dignity, and security of all fellow human beings.

Terrorism is an attack on ALL.

There are too many inidividuals who might passively agree with this, but fail to embrace this as a truth, based on our shared universal human rights. The most important campaign to challenge terror begins with recognizing that our fellow human beings truly deserve shared human rights, dignity, equality, pluralism, privacy, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, religious freedom, and security, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) - for every individual human being.

When we accept such universal human rights, the tribalist views that some anti-rights extremism is "necessary," "worthy," or "deserved," loses all credibility. We cannot simply challenge terror ideologies and acts only by those who are different from us. We must challenge terror and the extremist views behind such terror from every identity group, nationality, political or religious claim, and ideology.

Rejecting terrorism is more than recognizing that "some people did something." Combatting terrorism is more than law enforcement, military, and spy agencies taking action.  To challenge terrorism, we must commit to a human rights-based approach that consistently challenges the specific ideologies and the acts of terrorism that assault our fellow human beings. We must campaign for our fellow human beings to reject such anti-human rights ideologies, and we must call to our fellow human beings to reject such hate and violence. 

Hate and Violence are Not the Answer.

On April 16, 1963, the African-American human rights leader and pastor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously spoke of the common cause in rejecting injustice, written from the Birmingham, Alabama jail: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." The U.S.A. and the world miss the leadership of this great human rights martyr. But even in his death, nearly five years later on April 4, 1968, we were taught a lesson, as Dr. King was assassinated during a wave of political violence.  Dr. King campaigned for nonviolence. The violence of political terror ended his life.  It was a wake-up call for the American public to reject the terror of political violence. Generations of Americans still need to learn this lesson.

In the U.S.A., Americans rightly express sorrow, grief, and continued outrage at the mass-murder terrorism on 9/11/2001, and we continue to grieve for the victims and families of that attack. We also must recognize that the U.S.A. had been experiencing political violence terror attacks for a long time prior to the 9/11 attacks across the nation, including the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We have seen and continue to see such terror attacks around the world. We must be consistent in our outrage, condemnation, and use of a human rights-based approach to challenging such terror acts and ideologies. Having given his life for nonviolence in human rights, surely we can learn from Dr. King's sacrifice.

 We need leadership that learns from Dr. King's message.

A terrorist attack anywhere is a terror attack on our fellow human beings everywhere.

Let us START with this foundation.

Not just as words of compassion, but as real truth.

There is no "good" terrorism.  There is no "acceptable" terrorism.  There is no "deserving" terrorism.  There is no "righteous" terrorism. None. Not anywhere. Not to anyone.

Historical fact shows this as truth.

Those who may have supported the acts of Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Taliban, Al-Shabab, Boko Haram, must also face the factual truth of how such terrorist extremism has been attack on all people, including many, many Muslims around the world. 

Those who may have supported the acts of other religious extremists, who claimed rationale on their twisted views of Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, must also face the factual truth that such terrorist extremists are responsible for murder and crimes against others of their groups and fellow human beings.

Those who may have supported the acts of white supremacist and Nazi terror must also face the factual truth of how such terrorists have murdered white children, infants, women, elderly, and helpless individuals of every type.

Those who may have supported black nationalist terror must also face the factual truth of how such terrorists have murdered fellow black human beings, left their families with widows, and their children as orphans.

Those who may have supported the acts of Anarchist and Communist terror must also face the factual truth of how such terrorists have led to the death of innocent people, to the death and mutilitation of people of color, to those struggling in poverty, and those who were not the "enemies" they claimed justification for violence.

And the list goes on and on.

Let us uncategorically reject the concept that "terror" can be a force for "good" and for "justice." Surely, we have seen enough death, destruction, and attacks on fellow human beings' human rights and dignity to know this is wrong.

But a human rights approach needs more than simply knowing than terrorism is wrong. We need to build an approach to fighting terror among ALL OF US - where we recognize, without exception - that terror is an attack on ALL.  Wrong is wrong.

It is natural to be repulsed and angered at terrorist criminals in destroying lives, homes, and property. But to seek lasting progress against terror, our commitment to human rights, equality, freedom, security, and privacy, requires that we prioritize developing a human rights-based approach to challenging terror.

NOT with an upraised fist, but with an outstretched hand.

This is most difficult part. Surely, we want our fellow human beings safe and criminals brought to justice.   But law enforcement tactics are only the smallest step.  We need to find common cause in universal human rights and pluralism to reject all ideologies of terror.  Some regress to hate of those who gone down the dark path to extremist ideologies. But campaigns of hate do not move us one inch closer to stopping terrorism or the ideologies of terror. We need to offer a human rights-based alternative.

We would naturally want people to leave a life of crime, to abandon support for criminal gangs, to rejoin a public that depends on shared trust of one another.  So we must also naturally call for those supporting extremist terror ideologies to leave a life that opposes our shared human rights, and join us in the family of human beings that respect such shared rights and dignity. This is the long-term work, the most difficult work, the real challenge to effectively addressing and campaigning against terror and political violence.

Our military, spy, law enforcement tactics do not do this long-term, substantive work; at best they are a short-term patch in an emergency situation. They are only short-term tactics, but too many have chosen to institutionalize these tactics against terror, rather than do the difficult strategic work to campaign for human rights change on terror. Even then, some of the military, spy, police tactics (when used against human rights) can be abused and can become counterproductive. It has become so common in some cases, that some in the public no longer bother to be outraged.

We will never end terror with tactics of torture, intrusive spying, undermining democracy, and ending free expression and debate. We must not give ideologies of terror a victory by abandoning the human rights we must use as a counterargument to terrorism's extremism.  We cannot expect short-term tactics to do the job of long-term strategy. We cannot abandon human rights and democratic values, in the misguided belief that "the ends justifies the means" will somehow keep our fellow human beings "safe."  

If we have learned anything on terror, we have learned there is no "safe harbor" from the extremist terror that lives in the minds of troubled individuals. There are not enough barriers, not enough security measures, not enough police, not enough military, not enough spies, to stop terror. When we abandon our human rights values in misguided belief we will then be "safe," we only embolden and provide justification to extremist ideologies used to rationalize terrorism. We offer no justice by jackboot, and no public protection through police state tactics.

Dr. King taught that we cannot promote justice through injustice ourselves, and that we cannot end violence through violence ourselves. If he were alive, he would tell us also that we cannot end anti-human rights terrorism by anti-human rights tactics ourselves. Our world misses his public voice of conscience. But the private voice of our own conscience speaks to us in every one of our own lives and minds. We must listen to our conscience.

We know that anti-human rights tactics against terror can undermine credibility to challenge terrorism, when dependent on violence, abandonment of values, and corruption.

An outstretched hand is not an upraised fist. We don't need to be told the direction that the upraised fist will continue to take our human societies.  We have centuries and centuries of recorded history on the lessons of those tactics. Those promoting terrorism / political violence have sought to continue the tactics of the upraised fist. 

We have seen the upraised fist on the 9/11 terror attacks.  We have seen the upraised fist in terror attacks around the world by extremists.  We have seen the upraised fist in the terror of political violence in streets and assassinations of leaders around the world, even of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Yet the disgrace of the upraised fist still does not shame and embarrass many anger activists, whose fevered illusions have rationalized that "this time" the violence against our fellow human beings will somehow be justified, and that "this time" such "ends justifies the means."  We know that there is no call to the "ends justifies the means" in our Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the laws of democratic nations, and in the conscience of human beings who seek equality and dignity for one another.

We also have painful history of corrupted organizations, who believed that they could challenge terror by becoming like the terrorists themselves, by believing that they were "above the law," We have sadly seen those that believed they had the power and mandate to attack the human rights of those they designated as "enemies" at their whim.  And where does this lead us?  Where does this end?  To those blinded by power over others, in the interests of "security," where is the ability to know when they have gone "too far"?  To those blinded by a cause that the "ends justifies the means," the only ones they are deceiving are themselves. Those individuals, organizations, and institutions committed to universal human rights understand the most basic ethical mathematics that wrong is wrong. Two wrongs never equal a "right."

When we allow ourselves to segment into tribal and identity groups on terrorism, we are consciously blinded to understanding the global problem of terror.  Much of the major news media no longer reports on global terror as a problem, especially when the terror takes place in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Somalia, etc. Imagine if the Western news media had a level of outrage regarding mass murder of fellow human beings in such nations, that it reserves only for fevered political debate or the latest comment by a celebrity figure.  Terrorism is wrong regardless of your race, nationality, religion, ethnicity, or ethnic group.

In 2018, the Taliban terror group was responsible for 1,751 civilian casualties in 2018 in Afghanistan, according to a February 24, 2019 report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). The tens of thousands of Afghanistan civilians, overwhelmingly fellow Muslims, slaughtered by the Taliban over the past 10-20 years should stagger the conscience of the world. Yet the Western media continue to refer to such Taliban terrorists as "militants," and bipartisan political figures seek to gain their favor, without a commitment on our shared universal human rights. Challenge to terror groups and ideologies must begin with a human rights-based called for change.

But less than a year before this report (during 2018), we learned of a U.S. law enforcement organization funding an advocate of the Taliban terror group. In the Federal U.S. District Court in Orlando, Florida, on March 26, 2018, the FBI testified in federal court about one of their paid informants, Mr. Seddique Mateen (Case 6:17-cr-00018-PGB-KRS). FBI Special Agent Juvenal Martin testified in federal court that Mr. Mateen was a paid FBI informant for 11 years; Mr. Mateen was also active and aggressive promoter of the Taliban terror group, internationally promoting videos in support of the Afghanistan Taliban terrorists, who he considered his "warrior brothers." Mr. Mateen's activities and his role as a paid FBI informant became publicly known in court, as a result of ongoing public investigations related to his son, Omar Mateen.  On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen led an ISIS-inspired terror attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 and injuring 53 Americans. During the March 2018 Orlando federal court proceedings, we also learned that the FBI sought to recruit Omar Mateen as a paid informant.

No one was fired. No one was criticized. No one was held accountable. The story was buried in the U.S. media, and outside of Orlando, most Americans never heard about it. It may be troubling to discover many might not care, and too many don't see anything wrong with this.

The "ends justifies the means" simply does not work in long-term efforts to challenge terrorism.  The path towards the "ends justifies the means" ultimately becomes the path of regret and disgrace.

Double standards are no standards.

We cannot effectively challenge terrorism and the ideological extremism behind terrorism without consistent human rights-based standards.

Only a human-rights based strategy to challenging terrorism can support the consistent values that we need that "A terrorist attack anywhere is a terror attack on our fellow human beings everywhere."

As Dr. King stated, "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

The world has invested endless billions and billions of dollars and effort into the military, spy, and law enforcement tactics to counter terrorism.  It is time to make a new national and international commitment to finding shared universal human rights standards of common ground, consistency, and credibility for fellow human beings to challenge the ideologies and the acts of terrorism, which are attacks on all of us.

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