And now, a light in the fog. After almost four decades of carrying out bloody assassinations and bombings, the Irish Republican Army announced that it was permanently abandoning military operations. It ordered all units to cease terrorist activity immediately and pledged to pursue its aims through politics.
Call me naive, but I immediately started dreaming about a future in which, one day, we would hear a similar statement from Al-Qaeda -- ordering all its cells to cease armed activity and pledging to pursue its goals of a Muslim world free of western intervention through political means. I know, it sounds impossible, but twenty years ago, an I.R.A. disarmament would have as well.
One of the reasons for the I.R.A. shift was Irish and Irish-American Catholics' growing distaste of violence in the wake of 9/11. Perhaps moderate and progressive Muslims might also, one day, lead a mindshift in the Muslim world that shunned suicide bombings and no longer viewed them as honorable. Muslim youth would stop being recruited by terrorist organizations, wealthy patrons would cease cash flows, and the bloody era of terrorism would draw to a close.
The sad difference is that the I.R.A. was a gentler terrorist organization than Al-Qaeda. As the Christian Science Monitor points out, though over 3,000 people were killed in their attacks,
Ã¢â‚¬ÂThere was an old terrorism analysts' phrase that the IRA wanted to have a lot of people watching but not a lot of people dead," says Dana Allin, a security expert with the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. While there is no question that mass casualties are the goal of the new breed of Islamist terrorism shaking Britain, he says, "this old-style terrorism was always about negotiable questions." ...Mr. Allin notes that "the new terrorism is distinguished by a different order of ideology and threat. It doesn't seem to be negotiable."Still, if Muslims like Irshad Manji and Asra Nomani gain a stronger voice, peace among western and Muslim nations may be more than just a dream. Maybe these are the actual freedom fighters we should be supporting.