The Culture of Martyrdom

From The Culture of Martyrdom:

Mohammad Sidique Khan, who blew himself up at Edgware Road in London on 7 July, in a video recorded just before his death, says in a distinctly Yorkshire accent, “Muslims, I strongly advise you to sacrifice this life for the hereafter.” Blowing yourself up in the middle of a crowd is an act of ethics in the name of Allah, according to Khan. The impulse that drove Khan to the bosom of al-Qaeda lies in the sick culture that glorifies “martyrdom” and projects young suicide bombers as heroes. The origins of this culture lie in the Iranian revolution. The Iranian revolutionaries exported the culture of “martyrdom operations” first into Lebanon and then into the Palestinian territories where there is now a thriving culture of celebrating suicide bombers as “martyrs.”

I have four things to say to those who support suicide bombings. One, if suicide killing was a viable weapon of a just war, then the Prophet Muhammad himself would have used it. Two, a Muslim community cannot really be in a state of despair – however bad its situation. Indeed, despair in Islam is a cardinal sin. As classical Muslim scholars have repeatedly pointed out, despair signifies rejection of God’s mercy and abandonment of hope. Three, suicide is also a cardinal sin in Islam. Life is the ultimate gift of God: nothing signifies ingratitude more than taking your own life – whatever the cause. According to Islam, suicide is one thing that God may never forgive. Four, taking one innocent life is, according to the Koran, like murdering all humanity. Indeed, even in a fully fledged state of war, killing innocent women and children is forbidden. The scholars who support suicide bombings know all this better than I do. Which makes their position even more perverse.

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