It is a thoughtless cliche that paradoxically seems to endure. It is used to defend the most horrendous atrocities that seek to control every aspect of the lives of others. It is an extreme show of cultural relativism that appears to link those who fight for equality, justice and freedom, with those who fight to prohibit equality, justice and freedom.
It may be said that whilst ‘freedom’ is an end, terrorism is not an end, but a way to get to an end. However, I find this particularly flawed, because it discounts my contention in this article, that terrorism can and often is used to implement a system of perpetual terror – Taliban controlled Afghanistan, for example – upon those who are outside of its narrow supremacist vision. Fighting for the power to put others in your cage, cannot be considered freedom.
It would appear to me that the word freedom is self explanatory. Any system that seeks to control others, by elevating a particular race, or gender, or sexuality, or religious belief above others, is not freedom. It is supremacist. Indeed, any system that institutionalises privileges for a particular race, or gender, or sexuality, or religious belief, is not freedom. It is supremacist. If you fight to uphold or to implement a supremacist system, controlling the lives, loves, thoughts, and the words of those who do not fit your narrow spectrum of what is considered decent and correct, you are a terrorist. You advocate perpetual terror. You are not fighting for freedom. You are fighting for oppression.
Freedom does not, and should include the freedom to oppress others according to your ideology. A freedom granted to one, must be a freedom granted to all. This includes the fundamental human right to think and speak freely without fear of oppression. The breaking down of patriarchal barriers that seek to oppress women as if an object to be owned and controlled by men. The freedom to love, regardless of sexuality. The freedom to assembly. The freedom from any form of discrimination based on the colour of one’s skin. The freedom to choose leaders. The freedom to believe whatever you choose to believe. The freedom to seek the life you wish. Freedom is the leveling of a playing field. If you fight for these principles, you are a freedom fighter.
I have heard often the excusing of the oppressive nature of Hamas, with the phrase “one man’s terrorist”. It’s a cliche that appears to attempt to link the cause of Hamas to great freedom fighters of the past; to those fighting the oppression of an opposing structure. As if freeing women or gay people or non-believers, can be considered as morally equivalent to caging women or gay people or non-believers. As if oppression is relative, and therefore acceptable. Hamas have nothing that could defined as ‘freedom’ etched into their being. They use violence in an attempt to implement a system of perpetual terror based on the supremacy of one religion. There is nothing that can be described as ‘freedom’ about this.
There are many strands to Hamas’ anti-freedom agenda. Crucially, religious supremacy. This seems to feed their heterosexual supremacy, and their patriarchal supremacy. Article 6 of Hamas’ constitution reads:
“The Islamic Resistance Movement is a distinct Palestinian Movement which owes its loyalty to Allah, derives from Islam its way of life and strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine. Only under the shadow of Islam could the members of all regions coexist in safety and security for their lives, properties and rights(11). In the absence of Islam, conflict arises, oppression reigns, corruption is rampant and struggles and wars prevail.”
– For some inexplicable reason, Hamas have decided that they have a natural right to impose their ideological structure upon all people living in Palestine. They then contradict their inherently oppressive message, by complaining that anything other than their own oppressive system, is oppression. Yet the implementation of their strict “moral” structure sees the horrendous treatment of gay people, the oppression of women, and the torture of anyone who critiques their beliefs. This isn’t freedom, nor are those fighting for it to be considered “freedom fighters“. Nor are those who forgive it, or support it – George Galloway for example – to be considered anything other than religious supremacists.
As noted above, freedom does not include a supposed inherent right to oppress whomever you wish. It is the equivalent of the Confederate State of America in the 1860s insisting that any leveling of the racial playing field, is inherently oppressive to white people, and that by fighting to uphold white supremacy, they’re actually ‘freedom fighters’. How ludicrous. Threatening and breaking supremacist ideals, is the promotion of freedom. Hamas, the Taliban, and others like them, do not get to call themselves freedom fighters. It is preposterous to do so. In the same way that it would be preposterous to define Jefferson Davis as a freedom fighter. Those who defend their actions, insisting that Jefferson Davis was in fact a freedom fighter, must lay out what freedoms he was actually fighting for. Their argument must be stronger than those who think differently, otherwise the argument fails.
The distinction between freedom fighter and those fighting to establish a system that enshrines oppression can be seen most clearly if we contrast Article 6 of Hamas’ constitution above, with the Bill of Rights of post-Apartheid South Africa:
“Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. To promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken.
The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.”
“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes
freedom of the press and other media;
freedom to receive or impart information or ideas;
freedom of artistic creativity; and
academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.”
“Everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice, but no one exercising these rights may do so in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights.”
– These provisions establish the right of everyone to speak freely, to associate, to love, to believe, to live without fear of oppression. It establishes a line of equality that no gender, sexuality, race or religion can rise above. This was an incredible achievement. It is not often that those who fight for revolution in an oppressed nation relinquish power once they have it. Robespierre, Castro, Lenin; all forged oppressive power for themselves out of the structures they fought to break down. Those who fought Apartheid to frame a system in South Africa upon which freedom is enshrined, rightfully earn the title ‘freedom fighters’.
The distinction between ‘freedom fighter’ and ‘terrorist’ is clear. Motive is important. If you are fighting to implement or uphold a system that openly restricts rights, threatens punishment for exercising basic rights like expression or love, and oppresses those who do not fit into its structure, you are advocating the power for yourself to cage and chain others. This is terror. If however you fight to break those chains, to free people from an oppressive cage of illegitimate power structures, and establish a line of equality upon which supremacy is prohibited, and all are considered equal, you are a freedom fighter.
Freedom and terror are incompatible.