On the 24th of March 2015 an Airbus A320-200 crashed in the French Alps. It is widely believed, that the crash was intentionally caused by the 27-year-old co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz (The Guardian). However, a suicide attempt that has led to the death of other 149 people, is not labeled as a terrorist attack. Whereas in the meantime, nearly 10 000 Palestinians have been killed since the 29th of September 2000, due to Israeli’s phobia of Islamism (If Americans Knew). In this article, I claim the concept of terrorism, as it is usually studied nowadays, is extremely exclusive and Eurocentric and needs to be reconsidered.
It was already discussed that the word “terrorism” is often used for “propaganda” purposes. E. states that the concept of terrorism is used by media
“to create fear and labeling groups and acts of violence”.
I want to develop the argument further and emphasize the fact that a terrorist act, conducted by a white man is not labeled as terrorism, just because the man is white.
From the Eurocentric perspective, terrorism is usually linked to ideologically and politically motivated actions that cause threat or death to the civilians. According to the UN, terrorism includes
“hostage-taking and hijacking; abduction of UN personnel; unlawful use of plastic explosives; assassination of heads of State or political leaders; destruction of, or attacks on, civilian aircraft; bombings of embassies and civilians; organized, non-state political violence in peacetime, including attacks on civilian, government and military buildings; and attacks on religious sites in armed conflict” (Definition of “Terrorism” in the UN Security Council: 1985–2004).
Crenshaw (1981) argues, that terrorism per se is “not usually a reflection of mass discontent or deep cleavages in society”. Terrorism, in her opinion, represents a disaffection of a fragment of the “elite” and is a “result of a gradual growth of commitment and opposition”.
I suggest that, on the one hand, such a conception of terrorism is too narrow and oversees different factors, for instance a factor of mental disorder. According to Crenshaw 1981, a suicide bomber would be simply a person, who is deeply involved in the political struggle and his “self-devotion” is nothing but the sign of commitment. The factor of mental disorder is overseen at this point. A suicide bomber, who exploded in the Domodedovo Airport in Moscow on the 24th of January 2011 and caused death of 37 random people, surely also had mental disorders, because no healthy human would commit something like this.
On the other hand, the cases of Western terrorism need to be acknowledged as a threat. The case of Andreas Lubitz is not considered to be a terrorist attack, however such cases are dangerous to underestimate. In fact, the concerns about suicide is especially present in the Western societies, particularly in the EU. Suicide has become recognized as a serious public health problem that is causing increasing concern (learn more here: Suicide mortality in the European Union). Depression, despar, fatalism can be as dangerous as an ideology.
Some may argue that it is false to label the suicide of Andreas Lubitz as a terrorist attack because this case lacks political/ideological/religious motivation. However, I believe that this typical explanations of a terrorist attack cannot be simply projected on the realities of Western countries. Whereas in North Africa and Arab countries one sees the rise of the Islamic State, or in East Ukraine one sees the erosion of the Soviet Identity, in Europe issues are different. One can argue that the “psychological problems” of Andreas Lubitz are actually caused by the society he was living in. His action is hence the reflection of failed socialization. Disillusionment. Despair.
An Indian friend of mine after having spent half a year in Germany admitted that it is a very sad place to live. He said he was overloaded with impersonal relationships in daily life that are so common in Western countries and hard to comprehend for people with other backgrounds. Maybe the case of Andreas Lubitz raises problems of the core of the Western society?
Summing up, the connection between terrorism and psychological disorders is usually not emphasized. In this article I wanted to show that the concept of terrorism should include the consideration of mental problems. This will allow to have an important extra factor, while analyzing terrorism on the one hand. And allow to see the threat of mental disorders and their possible transformation in terrorism on the other hand.