In the international community, terrorism has no legally binding, criminal law definition. Common definitions of terrorism refer only to those violent acts that are intended to create fear; are perpetrated for a religious, political, or ideological goal; and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants. Some definitions now include acts of unlawful violence and war. The use of similar tactics by criminal organizations for protection rackets or to enforce a code of silence is usually not labeled terrorism, though these same actions may be labeled terrorism when done by a politically motivated group. Usage of the term has also been criticized for its frequent undue equating with Islamism or jihadism, while ignoring non-Islamic organizations or individuals.
The word "terrorism" is politically loaded and emotionally charged, and this greatly compounds the difficulty of providing a precise definition. Studies have found over 100 definitions of "terrorism". In some cases, the same group may be described as "freedom fighters" by its supporters and considered to be terrorists by its opponents.