Terrorism is a term used to describe violence or other harmful acts . Terrorism expert Walter Laqueur in 1999 has counted over 100 definitions and concludes that the "only general characteristic generally agreed upon is that terrorism involves violence and the threat of violence". Most definitions of terrorism include only those acts which are intended to create fear or "terror ", are perpetrated for an ideological goal (as opposed to a "madman" attack), and deliberately target "non-combatants ".
As a form of unconventional warfare , terrorism is sometimes used when attempting to force political change by : convincing a government or population to agree to demands to avoid future harm or fear of harm, destabilization of an existing government, motivating a disgruntled population to join an uprising, escalating a conflict in the hopes of disrupting the status quo, expressing a grievance, or drawing attention to a cause .
The terms "terrorism" and "terrorist" (someone who engages in terrorism) carry a strong negative connotation. These terms are often used as political labels to condemn violence or threat of violence by certain actors as immoral, indiscriminate, or unjustified. Those labeled "terrorists" rarely identify themselves as such, and typically use other generic terms or terms specific to their situation, such as: separatist, freedom fighter, liberator , revolutionary, vigilante, militant, paramilitary, guerrilla, rebel, jihadi or mujaheddin, or fedayeen, or any similar-meaning word in other languages .
Terrorism has been used by a broad array of political organizations in furthering their objectives; both right-wing and left-wing political parties, nationalistic, and religious groups, revolutionaries and ruling governments. The presence of non-state actors in widespread armed conflict has created controversy regarding the application of the laws of war .
An International Roundtable on Constructing Peace, Deconstructing Terror (2004) hosted by Strategic Foresight Group recommended that a distinction should be made between terrorism and acts of terror. While acts of terror are criminal acts as per the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 and domestic jurisprudence of almost all countries in the world, terrorism refers to a phenomenon including acts, perpetrators of acts of terror and motives of the perpetrators. There is a disagreement on definition of terrorism. However, there is an intellectual consensus globally that acts of terror should not be accepted under any circumstances. This is reflected in all important conventions including the United Nations counter terrorism strategy, outcome of the Madrid Conference on terrorism and outcome of the Strategic Foresight Group and ALDE roundtables at the European Parliament