Fair Observer US Essay Competition 2021

Terrorism in the 21st Century: Causes, Drivers and Solutions

On July 3, 2016, the editor-in-chief of Fair Observer published an article titled, “The World This Week: The Age of Fear, Anger, Hate and Terror.” That week, Istanbul, Dhaka and Baghdad suffered deadly terrorist attacks. For the last three decades, terrorism has been a growing menace. The causes experts attribute to this phenomenon include high unemployment, rising inequality, persistent discrimination and toxic ideologies from Islamic extremism to white supremacy.

Terrorism emerged as a major political tool in the 19th century. Many of those fighting for justice, equality and political change reasoned that the ends justify the means, embarking on a campaign of political assassinations and indiscriminate bombings. Arguably, a new form of terrorism can be dated from the tragic and historic attacks of September 11, 2001, that changed the world as we know it. The 9/11 attacks were the first on American soil since Pearl Harbor and left the US shell-shocked. In response, Washington launched a global war on terror that is now nearly into its third decade, yet terrorism remains a worldwide problem. 

The attacks on American soil inspired further attacks. On March 11, 2004, 10 bombs went off on four trains in Madrid, leaving 191 dead and more than 1,800 injured. On July 7, 2005, four suicide bombers killed 52 people and injured more than 700 in London. Three years later, Mumbai became the target when, on November 26, 2008, 10 Pakistani nationals sailed from Karachi, launching attacks that killed 164 and wounded more than 300 over a period of three days.

In Mumbai, a small group of terrorists wrought much havoc. They did not use advanced technology. Instead, they focused on crowded areas and high-profile locations, inflicting maximum casualties. In the words of Bruce Riedel of Brookings, the Mumbai attacks “set a gold standard for how a small group of suicidal fanatics can paralyze a major city, attract global attention, and terrorize a continent.”

Since Mumbai, terror strikes in urban centers have been a regular occurrence. As the Islamist threat grew, so did the radical-right backlash both against Muslims as well as other minority groups that are seen as a peril to the supremacy of the white race. As per the Global Terrorism Index 2019, far-right terrorist attacks increased by 320% over five years. In 2018, the number of attacks by white extremists in the West were more than double the number by Islamist actors. 

In January 2019, the Anti-Defamation League concluded that every extremist murder in the US in 2018 was linked to right-wing extremism. It also noted that “Right-wing extremists killed more people in 2018 than in any year since 1995 when Timothy McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma City federal building.” Alarmingly, from Norway, Germany and Greece, to South Carolina, Pennsylvania in the US and Christchurch, New Zealand, the far right has been claiming lives with increasing frequency. At the same time, US President Donald Trump has continuously refused to condemn white supremacy, telling far-right groups to “stand back and stand by.”

In October, the beheading of French school teacher Samuel Paty set off yet another global debate. Some, like French President Emmanuel Macron, have argued that Islam is in crisis and leads to violence. Others, like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, disagree and accuse Macron of Islamophobia. Many argue that violence is caused not by religion but its appropriation by political forces, and that it is countries like Pakistan and Iran who are responsible for using terror as an instrument of state policy, not Islam per se. Analysts also point out that the contentious 2020 elections have increased the threat of homegrown terrorism in the US as well.

Since Fair Observer believes in examining the deeper issues behind the news, we invite entries from young people in the US on this thorniest of issues. What drives terrorism in the 21st century? Is there a solution to this phenomenon? If so, what could it possibly be?

Competition Guidelines

  1. The competition is open to young people resident in the US.
  2. They must be over 16 and under 30 on the date of submission.
  3. There are three prizes on offer:
    1. First Prize: $1,000
    2. Second Prize: $500
    3. Third Prize: $250
  4. Ideally, the essays must be 1,500-2,000 words in length.
  5. Develop arguments and adduce evidence. Mere iteration of facts or bald assertions will not suffice. In particular, avoid endless regurgitation of facts without flow or structure. 
  6. Remember, Fair Observer is a digital media platform with a reputation for high-quality content. Your opinions and arguments must be well organized and carefully constructed.
  7. Certain facts that may appear obvious to you will be unknown to others. So explanations and transitions are critical.
  8. Remember, some readers will not have the same knowledge of the issue as you do. So please be clear, simple and accessible.
  9. Back up your arguments by using secondary sources. Ideally, hyperlink the source of your citation or the evidence for a fact. If you do not know how to use hyperlinks, provide the website links in brackets in the same sentence. Remember, we do not publish footnotes or endnotes at the end of the article.
  10. Please remember that the content is read by an international audience. You must be accessible to readers in other countries.
  11. Refer to historical, economic or social context as applicable. Provide dates, formal titles and explain events.
  12. Keep a “big picture” perspective. Remember not to get buried in minutiae or technical details. At the same time, bear in mind that evidence and statistics are important to present a point.
  13. Be thrifty. Make every word count.
  14. Be clear. Watch out for too many long sentences. This is a sure way to lose readers.
  15. Avoid clichés. Metaphors lose their impact if they are too familiar.
  16. Please limit the use of rhetorical questions. Instead, make your point succinctly.
  17. Please adhere to rules of grammar and avoid spelling mistakes.
  18. Please email your essays to education@fairobserver.com after registering here. The subject line should be in this format: 2020 Essay Competition by Your Full Name (Example: 2020 Essay Competition by Thomas Jefferson).
  19. Please send us one high-resolution profile photo of yourself along with your essay.
  20. Please read articles on Fair Observer, sign up for our daily newsletter and follow us on social media — Facebook, LinkedIn Twitter, Instagram and YouTube — to acquaint yourself with the standard we expect.
  21. The judges for this competition will be Glenn Carle, Ian McCredie and Ishtiaq Ahmed.
  22. The deadline for this competition is February 21, 2021.