The IRA was ideologically opposed to Northern Ireland being part of the United Kingdom, beliefs that were radically opposed by many people. “Over my dead body” was a common phrase of that era…
If the UK had fought the IRA’s ideology rather than their terrorism, would this have created peace faster than preventing the IRA from being effective terrorists? (There were also, as with the struggle with Al Quaeda (AQ), serious social and economic factors to the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’; which as now in Afghanistan, were dealt with in parallel to countering the terror.)
But maybe AQ’s ideology as seen from a western perspective, is ‘worse’ than that of the IRA – more pernicious, aimed at over-throwing western governments, values and democratic ideals – and converting everyone to Islam?
Agreeing or not with that last question depends on your personal opinion, and there are plenty of people, who’d disagree.
So does this suggest that there’s a difference between what people think and what they do?
Obviously yes, and this is where one draws the line between healthy debate and terrorism.
Military forces must operate within the law, taking steps against the unlawful actions of others. ‘Hearts and Minds’ campaigns are important as well, but only in so far as providing safety, food and so on for people – not ramming counter-propaganda down their throats. People can think whatever they like – which they do regardless of whatever others might do to them. How else did Christianity emerge from the lions and circuses of imperial Rome?
People are rightly concerned about radical Islamist teachings of hate against non-Moslems. But the crime here is not in the ideas but the teaching; it’s illegal to spread messages of hate. I’m not a Moslem scholar, so I’d be grateful if there is one following this discussion to chip in please, but I don’t believe that the teachings of Islam are any more brutal or xenophobic than the Old Testament (for example).
The Old Testament comes from a world in which the Jewish people were fighting for survival, and gives many rules to ensure that – some of which remain sensible today – with others that I understand may not be quite so necessary due to improved hygiene and so on. Many religions urge exclusivity onto their followers, for obvious tribal reasons. Religious persecution has also been practised by many religions.
I personally, from a lapsed Church of England point of view, feel quite strongly that some of the excesses of the West, which we see trumpeted across the world by western media, are indeed ungodly. I really don’t like the way Disney for example take the cultural treasures of other nations and turn them into Hollywood pap. I think the House Lords is undemocratic. I’m starting to worry about a possible President Palin. I truly disliked Archbishop Runcies’ intolerably horrid little speech whistle, and am so glad he got voice coaching. (I still don’t like his beard, or what’s happening to the CofE). But I’m not going to start any serious operational recce’ing of Disney Inc in Burbank California, Westminster, 1140 West Parks Highway Wasilla, or Lambeth Palace; and if I did I hope I’d be speedily apprehended.
I can imagine there are many other people, Moslem included, who feel equally strongly (and more so) about these and a great many other things, who’d also agree with my drawing of the line.
And there will be many, many others, who totally disagree with absolutely everything I’ve said – except the last bit.
It’s where you draw the line that’s truly important.