White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban by claiming only a very small percentage of innocent people were treated as terrorists while traveling so the outrage was overblown. He also justified the detention of a five year-old child, saying it would be wrong to assume children cannot be terrorist threats.
As the Trump administration systematically criminalizes refugees and immigrants, particularly those from seven Muslim-majority countries, it is worth asking: What is terrorism? What makes a terrorist? Who is a terrorist, or rather, who are the terrorists?
British Iraqi rapper Lowkey explored this question on “Terrorism?”, which appeared on his 2011 album, “Soundtrack to the Struggle.”
“So, we must ask ourselves, what is the dictionary definition of terrorism?” Lowkey asks during the introduction. “The systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion, but what is terror? According to the dictionary I hold in my hand, terror is violent or destructive acts, such as bombing committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands. So what’s a terrorist?”
During the first verse of the song, he contemplates whether improvised explosive devices pose more of a terrorist threat or whether the weapons of military defense contractors are responsible for more carnage. He wonders whether remote-controlled drones are terrorist tools.
In the second verse, Lowkey reflects on the CIA overthrowing democracy in the Congo, in Iran, and in Chile—just three of many examples in United States history. Why isn’t that terrorism? Why don’t more people view that as terrorism?
Lowkey acknowledges the sheer number of military bases the U.S. has throughout the world. He points out it is not just Muslims, who are against imperialism. The meddling against Fidel Castro in Cuba and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela had nothing to do with Islam.
The chorus is exceptionally relevant to the current criminalization of refugees and immigrants:
“They’re calling me a terrorist, like they don’t know who the terror is. When they put it on me, I tell them this. I’m all about peace and love.
They calling me a terrorist, like they don’t know who the terror is. Insulting my intelligence. Oh, how these people judge.”
Being a British Iraqi, it is possible if Lowkey had attempted to travel to the U.S. this past weekend he would have been blocked from boarding his flight. He may have been detained and interrogated if he made it to a U.S. airport. Then, he may have been put on a flight and sent back to England.
So, again, who is a Terrorist? Who are the Terrorists?
In this moment of chaos and turmoil, largely caused by the prejudicial and fearful acts of Trump, this is a provocative and critical question to explore.
Listen to Lowkey’s “Terrorist?”:
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