December 19, 2011
Sociology 4310: Reflective Essay
When first registering for this class, I was expecting that we would simply cover the history and ideals of various extremist groups because in a post-911 era, I wanted to have a better understanding of the various groups that the United States and the rest of the Western world are waging a “war” against. What I did not expect was that we would be looking at terrorism through the eyes of the terrorist, to essentially understand their reasoning for resorting to extremism. Suffice it to say, after taking this class, I have some sympathy for certain groups that are out there; they are merely defending themselves from what they perceive is a threat against them and after learning about the ordeals that these groups go through, I do not blame them for resorting to extremism, I do not condone their actions but I can understand why they do it.
It is important to note that while one may perceive a group as being terrorists, others may view them as freedom fighters. A historical example would be the Viet Cong, who waged a guerrilla war against the United States during the Vietnam War. While many people associated the Viet Cong with communist North Vietnam, they were in fact a communist political party founded in the democratic South Vietnam. The Viet Cong spoke out against what they viewed as American colonial interests and wished to unite Vietnam under a communist government. When war broke out, the Viet Cong went into hiding and became a guerrilla group operating out of North Vietnam. To the American-supported South Vietnamese government, this group was labelled as a rebel faction, which today would be considered terrorists, while others called them freedom fighters.
Perception is vital when looking at extremist groups. I had to re-evaluate my understanding of terrorism because I had developed the pre-conceived notion that all extremist groups were one in the same, which is far from the truth. It is important to remember that each and every group has a unique history and that we must put aside our preconceived notions, and critique each group separately. We must keep in mind that the actions of a few do not reflect the majority as a whole. This is the issue that is going on in the United States where the Islamic faith is viewed as the religion of terrorists and where people of Middle Eastern descent face discrimination because it is believe they can “potentially” become terrorists. We must open ourselves to have previously learned knowledge debunked, and allow for new knowledge to flow in.