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April 26, 2004


Eve Garrard

Terrific post, Mick. It would be interesting to know why these crimes are thought to be so understandable and (for some) even excusable. Is it because of the youth of the perpetrators, or the sense that some people seem to have of their purity of motive - what they do isn't selfish, at least not in the usual way, and that seems somehow to vindicate it? This could be part of a general romantic privileging of purity of motive over other moral considerations, such as the hellish consequences for innocent others.


MEMRI has several examples of authority figures encouraging suicide bombers. The most horrifying example is an editorial written by a professor of psychiatry at an Egyptian University. At one point, he actually asks the reader to visualize the happiness of the bomber, and says something like this (quoting from memory): " ... 3, 2, 1, death and he enters paradise." This is an educated man. He knows he is lying.


It seems to me that the falling off of enthusiasm for suicide baombing in Iran is highly significant. It didn't take a 'very long time' - it took a generation, 20 years. Just about what it took the Puritan founders of New England to invent the halfway covenant which excused thier offspring from the full conversion experience required for church membership. My point is that the level of religious fanaticism required to sustain suicide bombing may not be as endless or open ended as we often suppose. I think this aspect of the phenomena needs to be carefully factored into our response to it. At the same time I completely agree that excusing it as understandable only encourages it - particularly when the great majority of those so excusing it are secular people who are viewing it through a theoretical lens such as anti-colonialism and have little feel for the medieval religeous roots of the phenomena. The tactics needed, it sems to me, are a balance between firmly opposing terrorism and patience. Because there is the possibility of suicidal fanatics using WNDs I believe we will have to remain vigilant for 'a long time' - at least another two generations.

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