Terrorism has been defined as violence perpetrated with the aim of attacking civilians and/or symbolic targets by non-state actors operating as part of a political and/or religious network. It is a borderless, symbolic, psychological warfare that depends upon the aggressive expansion of ideologies of uniformity, and the annihilation of ideas. Terrorism has become the new paradigm for global conflict which depends decreasingly upon state-sponsored standing armies, a profoundly contemporary form of warfare dependent upon networks, permeable borders, and mass media coverage.
Terrorism knows no religion, politics, nation, or state uniquely. As Kwame Anthony Appiah points out, “there have been Christian terrorists in the United States;” nor is it exclusively the province of stateless religious radicals: “shock and awe” entered the ordinary lexicon of the English language as a U.S. military strategy for terrifying an enemy into submission through overwhelming asymmetric force, and current U.S. presidential candidates have spoken cavalierly of “carpet bombing” their enemies and attacking the families of known terrorists.