The International Herald Tribune runs this op-ed on the recent terrorists action in Russia. "The recent wave of terrorist attacks in Russia has been remarkably brutal, aimed even at children. There was, however, another detail regularly picked up by commentators and analysts: the prominent role played by women." And this: "All this amounts to a major shift in the operational modus operandi of Islamic terrorists. The events in Russia suggest that women are now the preferred tool with which to carry out ’martyrdom operations.’ If sustained, this would be a truly remarkable development." Why women? The points are considered. One is practical; everyone expects young Islamic men to be terrorists, so use women. The second is more interesting: Given that women have an inferior role in Islamic societies, and have no role to play in public, why have them play the role of "heroic martyr"?
The authors respond: "Symbolically, their participation sends a powerful message, blurring the distinction between perpetrator and victim. Even among progressive Westerners, the notion that women are the ’weaker sex,’ and that their inclination is to create and protect life rather than destroy it, remains widespread. If women decide to violate all established norms about the sanctity of human life, they do so only as a last resort. The scholar Clara Beyler, who analyzed public reactions to suicide bombings, found that ’female kamikazes’ tended to be portrayed as ’the symbols of utter despair ... rather than the cold-blooded murderers of civilians.’ If a woman was involved, the media focused on ’what made her do it,’ not on the carnage that she had created. In other words, if the attacker was a woman, it was the bomber who became the victim, and whose grievances needed to be addressed."