“Whoever shall kill a man or a believer without right the punishment is hell forever.”
In Islam, Dr. Tantawi argues there is an equivalent of Moses’s commandant against killing; “Whoever shall kill a man or a believer without right,” according to the grand imam, “the punishment is hell forever. Allah will be angry with him and give him a great punishment.” Particularly repulsive is a criminal who murders without honour, “from the back,” because “it is against morality and good honor.”
Venturing and examining the phenomenon of suicide bombings a little further needs a bold attempt to distinguish the primary motivation. Any exercise in the roots of martyrdom is futile if one does not look deeply into the minds of religious ‘zealots’ who are blowing themselves and others in fury with extreme venom. Underestimating their foes and their ability is the basis of this collective policy of targeted destruction that has yielded diminishing political returns. Playing one’s cards right has to be the core objective and working within limitations and switching the Achilles’ heel to muscle the art of survival of nations.
The Grand Imam Dr. Tantawi, rector of the respected Al-Azhar University in Cairo, asserts that the Islamic doctrine is vigilant to distinguish jihad with the Koranic concept of irhab. In contrast to the defensive and obligatory nature of jihad, irhab is terrorism: unjust combined with aggressive violence against the innocent and defenceless and is expressly forbidden by Islamic law and principles.
Thus based solely on the theoretical definition, suicide bombing is nothing more but irhab; these rules forbid Muslims to kill innocent people — and in particular, religious clerics of all faiths. In addition, this notion prohibits the killing a retreating enemy and those who surrender; they forbid harming captives; and they expressly forbid the destruction of buildings and civil centres.
The logical conclusion of this decree would be tantamount to a condemnation of suicide bombing because like the stabbing “in the back” it is essentially a concealed warfare directed against unaware individuals. Some authors justify it as an act under duress and utter desperation, however human life is too great a gift to be wasted on desperation. The art of living is to rise from the depths of darkness to illumine one’s environs.
Suicide militancy is not solely a product of Islamic fervor and religious indoctrination. In fact, the largest suicide unit of a militant outfit was the LTTE, which is officially atheist. The group was founded in 1974 but suicide bombings were introduced as a tactic only in 1987 and has Rajiv Gandhi to claim as its most successful victim. It is believed that the LTTE’s Black Tigers suicide unit drew inspiration from the success of the Hizbullah suicide missions. An interesting fact is that suicide missions seem to have been a historically acceptable tactic of war among Tamils even before the recent wave of suicide attacks in Israel. The “recurring theme” in The Purananuru poetry of the period, between 500 BC and 200 AD, dealt with suicide missions. The psychological impetus driving the Black Tigers is similar to those that spurred Kamikaze pilots, of the Japanese air force in the Second World War, who crashed their explosive-laden planes into American warships.
The mythical promise of honour after death is a potent attraction for those who seek glory since it essentially appeals to the aspect of the human psyche that craves adulation and respect. With regards to the Palestinians, the honour conferred with the martyr bestows a sense of justification and a validation of suicide tactics. Thus, for Palestinian youth the latent religious attraction of dying as a martyr, and consequently gaining an entrance to paradise, is augmented by the prestige associated with martyrdom.
The notion of life after death does play a vital role in the motivation of suicide bombing. There is a significant correlation between belief in an afterlife and the propensity to martyrdom. One would be reluctant to sacrifice if he adheres to the belief that he would scatter into a gloomy oblivion after death.
Terrorist organisations and guerrillas seek to immerse themselves in the history of their cause and portray their fight to be only a continuation of the great battles fought by the nation, and those that etched in the minds of its citizens. The Palestinian cause seems superficially to be immersed in Islamic mores and has been presented to the Arab World as an unresolved aftermath of the Crusades. These radicals must garner support from the local populace by approaching them with a common reference rooted in the past. Without historical allusions, the citizenry will be unable to relate to the insurgents and there will be dearth of inspiration with which to rally common support.
Ultimately psychologists state the mindset of a suicide bomber is no different from those of Tibetan self-immolators or the Irish prisoners who were ready to die in a hunger strike. The ethos of sacrifice is firmly engrained in their mindsets and they derive their inspiration from their struggle against the oppressor.
The fundamental difference lay that the Buddhist monks, in Laos during the Vietnam War, burnt themselves to death consequently injuring none but their own persons. The self-immolation with petrol received far more political attention; the elements of sacrifice and passive martyrdom for the sake of peace did have a significant impact on a very watchful world.
To martyr oneself to promote peace is more explicable rather than to slay oneself to murder others. Selfless sacrifice irrefutably demonstrates strength and the will of character however to harness the essence of martyrdom as a weapon to mutilate and butcher others can confer no benefits and only demeans the value of the cause, that the perpetrators seek to advance.
The suicide bombers consider the prosperity and advancement of Western civilisation as something that has made life and living a very dear experience or even in lesser privilege places the love of living becomes a target. It is their conviction that material comfort has induced a zest for life, which in turn has made prosperous in too cowards. Like ‘Joy killers’ they want to rob the world from any pleasures since they can’t have it. Naturally this is flawed reasoning since when people love their life that in no way implies that they are cowards, in fact it will spur them to protect their way of life with even more dedication. To upset the present fine balance of ‘live and let others live’ achieved over the centuries and after the countless sacrifices is an extreme act of terror and cowardice. It’s pure callousness!
A study carried out that involved profiling more than 50 suicide bombers serving in Amal, Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad and secular pro-Syrian outfits in Lebanon finally concluded that there is no single demographic or psychological profile for a suicide bomber. There is no single characteristic that defines a suicide bomber and it is the incessant amalgamation of the factors discussed above interacting in an individual’s mind that will induce a suicidal cum sacrificial mindset. Appeasement has never paid neither unreasonable tough position like that of Sharon. A middle way has always brought some semblance of order to chaos and that is the way out of this crisis. Human bombing will have to stop.
In 1967 Palestinians introduced ‘ art of hijacking’ as a tool of political statement. It has added discomfort and huge cost of hundred of billions in lost revenues and lost time for millions of air travelers since. If we can’t have it, we will deny it to the whole world is the tall slogan of these extremists. Since than, the phenomenon of human sacrifice and hijacked planes have been further cunningly entangled and what we saw on Sept. 2001 was mix of that extreme wickedness that got new thrust as evil was perpetrated at a higher scale by combining a hijacked plane with humans who were suicide bombers. Is it not high time that these guys should not be appeased any further in name of ‘desperate survival?’ Has the desperate and evil art of hijacking made their aspirations of independent Palestinian state come true? The fact is that now hijacking has been hijacked by bigger criminals and combined with the zeal of ‘holy suicide bombers’, has made our world far more instable!
Millions of young man are watching and learning this dreadful art of carnage and world, as a whole is a loser. These new techniques of suicide bombing will not see the end in Palestinian, like plane hijacks gained momentum this will spill out of the borders of the region, may be we will have to go through same kind of through checks as we to go through for planes even for small journeys in buses. The world is being made of smaller and closed place. Free movement is the strength of global interaction we are being robbed of that systematically.
Someone who encourages youngsters to strap bombs on themselves with the intent of killing innocent civilians has no self-esteem, the lesson being taught, “if we cannot live peacefully then we will not let others live peacefully.” That is not a prescription for a healthy society.
I believe that life is a gift of God and that progress and prosperity is a result of continuous hard word. Naturally prosperity, well-being, enhanced standards of living does make people comfortable and that makes love their near ones and surroundings they live in. To destroy this social structure established in the society on basis of ‘ if I can’t have I will deny it to you too’ is unadulterated barbarism. Present prosperity of mankind is a result of a virtuous cycle, a success of a model of cooperation between human beings and their ability to play their hand right.
The writer is in Paris, France.