Friday, February 04, 2005

Suicide bombing and istishhad

Eric the Unred writes on the Iraqi insurgents.

I came across this extract from David Storobin's The Birth of Suicide Bombings as a Popular Weapon.
The 15-year-old Iranian boy was crying as he was captured by Iraqi troops during the Iran-Iraq war. Presuming that the child-fighter was crying because he was bleeding, the Iraqi officer told him not to worry because the wounds were not serious. Hearing those words, the teenager began to cry harder. “I didn’t die,” complained the boy. “God does not want me.” [3]

Iranian children as young as nine were recruited for the most dangerous roles in breaking battle lines during the Iran-Iraq war. The children, known as baseeji, led the way, running over mine fields to clear the ground for regular soldiers and shielding adults with their little bodies. “Their numbers were never disclosed,” wrote Robin Wright. “But a walk through the residential suburbs of Iranian cities provided a clue. Window after window, block after block, displayed black-bordered photographs of teenage and pre-teen youths.”

A Western official remarked, “As we are learning, these are not odd men out … They truly live in a different world, their thinking totally alien and incomprehensible to the Western mind. We keep thinking they will come to their senses and realize this foolhardiness will cost them their one and only life. What is hard for us to fathom is that this is what life is all about to them, a gateway to heaven that must be earned.” [4]

The Koran does not forbid suicide. An often-cited passage of the Koran says, “And do not kill anfasakum” – the word “anfasakum” is interpreted in classical commentaries as “one another” and not “yourself,” despite proclamations by many in the West that the quote forbids suicide. [5] The hadiths (reports from Muhammad’s life) make it clear that the Prophet did not approve of suicide and that one who kills himself will not reach heaven. However, the suicide that is forbidden is “intihar”, traditional suicide. “Istishhad”, or self-sacrifice, is not forbidden.
There's another piece I found interesting on the origins of suicidal terrorism. This puts Milton's Samson as a proto-suicide warrior
This suicide-warrior rises to the top of Western literature in Samson Agonistes. Milton is here smarting from the horror and shame of the Restoration. Once again, England is under the idolatrous law of king and bishops, a kind of jahiliyya, and Cromwell’s city of glass has been shattered. His poem, then, is autobiographical: Samson is a true hero, humiliated, blinded by an unjust king, kept captive in the world of the dark Other. Like the refugee-camp inmate he is

To daily fraud, contempt, abuse and wrong,
Within doors, or without, still as a fool,
In power of others, never in my own.

His duty, confronted by a hypocritical War on Terror, is to take effective revenge by any means necessary. His father, recognising this grim necessity, makes the usual statement of fathers of suicide bombers everywhere:

Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail,
Or knock the breast, no weakness, no contempt,
Dispraise, or blame, nothing but well and fair.
And what may quiet us in a death so noble.

The theme continues, through Handel, to reach Saint-Saens. In the latter’s opera Samson and Delilah the Samson legend, far from falling by the wayside of progress and fraternité, seems the perfect icon for France’s contemporary humiliation before Prussian technology. The guns of Krupp have frustrated France’s destiny in her mission civilatrice, and the chosen people must be avenged. The story seems perfectly modern: there is the theme of the tragic power of sex - Delilah becomes a second Carmen - and we witness the inevitability of total destruction in a grand, cast-iron Götterdammerung. Ernst Jünger, Stalingrad, and the suicidal B-52 captain in Doctor Strangelove are not far behind.
Now I believe that suicide bombing is an obscenity as is bombing. Isn't there something wrong in a life when to quote Terry Eagleton:
Blowing himself to pieces in a packed marketplace is likely to prove by far the most historic event of the bomber's life. Nothing in his life, to quote Macbeth, becomes him like the leaving of it. This is both his triumph and his defeat.
No No No. There is no triumph in blowing yourself and others up. There is no triumph in destroying the life of others not engaged in conflict. There is no triumph in blowing up a bus and its passengers. There is no triumph in walking into a bar and blowing it up. There is just defeat. Defeat of humanism. Defeat of what it means to be human. Defeat of everything that is good. Defeat of life.

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