Terrorism and Hate Crime

Both terrorism and hate crime rely on the perpetrator’s hatred and ability to cause fear. A hate crime is a criminal offense like murder or rape, but with an added element of bias. State legislatures began writing hate-crime laws in the 1980s. Basically, hate-crime laws criminalize attacks against people or entities. Hate-crime legislation is often criticized because it is difficult for prosecutors to prove “hateful” motives. A positivist theory that is applicable to hate crime is strain theory. From the classical school, there is rational choice theory.

Terrorism is politically motivated violence against civilians. It is difficult to define because terrorism is relative and people disagree over what defines terrorism and what defines self-defense. The classical school would explain terrorism as occurring because terrorists make a rational choice to break the law instead of choosing peaceful forms of protest and discourse. Positivists look for external causes and would argue that terrorists would not turn to violence if not for the social disorder and poverty in which many of them live.

Domestic terrorism involves terrorist acts that are the work of U.S. citizens within national borders. Incidents of domestic terrorism have been motivated by racism, fundamentalist religious beliefs, and hatred of the federal government. International terrorism involves a national or group of nationals from one country crossing international borders and attacking targets in another country. International cooperation is crucial to the control of global terrorism. Nearly every region in the world has some degree of international terrorism.

It is difficult to control terrorism as it is hard to identify, locate, and engage terrorists. The U.S. criminal justice system has only become involved in terrorism control since 2001. Procedures designed to protect and safeguard the United States may disrupt citizens’ everyday life and a balance between allowing people freedom and protecting them from harm must be found.