I asked Chinwei what terrorist groups were predominant in Singapore, and our conversation led to how civilian casualties affect perceptions of terrorism. Below is his very well-stated opinion. I think his idea that “hatred is amplified through ignorance” rings true. And I especially agree with him that terrorists are not just “mere killing machines” and that “it takes a lot for one to kill normal, defenseless people just to evoke terror.” It’s a very thought provoking reflection and I began to think about what in our society is to blame for the creation of this sort of hatred.

“Well in recent times what i remember is the news telling us about some member of a terrorist group called Jemaah Islamiyah being arrested. I didn’t pay much attention to it, but it was after 9/11 and people were paying more attention to such stuff.

Its interesting that the “war on terror” is often perceived as a war somewhere distant in the world, at some imaginary boundaries between the “good” and the “bad”, but the thing is that there are no boundaries in a fight against “terror”, and yes, civilian casualties matter a great deal, because such acts of terror pervade normal lives, including those who have nothing to do with the “war”. In a typical war, you could stay reasonably safe as long you were not a combatant and stayed away from the frontlines, but victims of terrorism are often people doing their day-to-day things like going to school, to work and so on, and there is no way to be excluded from this violence.

Another thing about civilian casualties is that it generates hatred against the “terrorists”, and this hatred is amplified through ignorance, because there is no way for people to understand why these people are committing these acts of violence, and thus many people see them as mere killing machines. I doubt it myself. I would think it takes a lot for one to kill normal, defenseless people just to evoke terror. This lens of ignorance on both sides, of the attacker and the victim, imo is a major hindrance to any peaceful resolution. “