Ask yourself, who do you consider to be the true representative face of current terrorism?
Is it contestant number 1: Osama Bin Laden
Contestant number 2: Michael Mckevitt, imprisoned leader of the The Real IRA.
Contestant number 3: Rev Michael Bray, considered to be the chaplain of The Army of God.
Or is it all three?
Nobody would blame you if number 1 was your answer. Al Qaida and it's cohorts are the current terrorist bad boys du jour. Furthermore, Al Qaida, and those groups associated with it have brought about a new era in the history of the world and terrorism. Since it's inaugral attack on the west, the world trade centre attack of 1993, it has committed acts of such scale and cruelty as have never been committed before by terrorist organisations: death on massive scale in 1998, 2001, Iraq, 7/7, kidnappings and beheadings of hostages both foreign and islamic, Nick Berg springs immediately to mind. Islamic terrorism is nothing new, this is merely the latest example of it
However, as the case of Al-Qaida demonstrates the world has in the past been caught on the back foot. I would hypothesise that this is in large part due, atleast publicly to the UK and US's concentration on a singular threat ( UK and IRA), or as in the case of the U.S, concentration on the protection of another state and it's own political agenda ( Israel, UK, and the cold war). It was in this climate that Al- Qaida was allowed to develop into the organisation that it is today.
As I said earlier you could be forgiven for pointing to the picture of Bin Laden. You could also be forgiven for thinking that the only terrorist threat to humanity is Islamic. However, I did not choose the other pictures merely as contrasts. Mckevitt, although imprisoned and convinced of his own innocence, is still the leader of the currently active Real IRA. This remember is an organisation that has no fear about attacking UK targets. Bray is the spiritual leader of the group known as the Army of God. He is proof that terror and bigotry exist in the country that is currently at the forefront of the war on terror. Neither of these organisations have been in the news much recently. We in the west have been concerned with other matters. However, as al qaida demonstrated we should not take relative dormancy and lack of high profile coverage as a sign of blunted power.
Furthermore, terrorism is not unique to one cause or people. It is an ideology of hate and terror that is capable of being prevalent anywhere in the world, especially where their is great social, religous and political unrest.
Lastly, I guess the main point of this article is fairly obvious. Terrorism, unfortunately is an ever evolving and ever present threat. We ignore, other potential threats and their causes at our peril. However, please do not mistake me. I will never advocate falling into the easy trap of viewing your neighbour with suspicion. That only leads to conflict and unrest, both things the leaders of these awful organisations feed on as they only propagate their ideologies by taking in the disilliusoned.
For a list of organizations currently and historically classified as terrorist please go here.