What brings Suicide Bombers to detonate themselves and cause loss of life to innocent bystanders? Is it a religious fervour, the fragrant perfume of promised paradise for martyrdom?
In Islam suicide is forbidden and its incidence is at a lower pro rata rate to population than the West. A taking of a life is only allowed by way of justice with the death penalty for murder, but it is also acknowledged that forgiveness is better. Harming innocent bystanders, even in war, is forbidden under the Qur’an. On a personal level Muslims are generally peaceful, honest, hard working, civic minded people, no different to any other societies. The profile of the Suicide Bombers is not as you would expect. About 50% have a university degree; the majority are aged 18-23 and indistinuisble from the general populace. The largest share doesn’t come from Bush's proclaimed axis of evil, but from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
The crux of the matter and what brings fear to the mind is the term Jihad, which is to exert utmost effort, to strive, to struggle. Jihad has many different meanings, but it is simplistically attributed in non Islamic cultures to a “Religious War”. It has the same negative connotation in the West as “Crusade” has in the Islamic world, an association there with the Christen Crusaders who fought the Muslims for control of the Holy Land. The Link to a religious fervour as a precursor to violence is indeed a tenuous one. You might say Islamic fundamentalism is an enabler, rather than a motivator for theses acts of Terror. Violence and conflict in the region is largely a secular struggle, unconnected to religion. For example when Israel withdrew from 70% of it occupation of Gaza, captured mostly in the 7day war 40 years earlier, the number of suicide attacks by Hamas reduced by 90%. This type of example in the region is duplicated in every conflict. Dr Robert Pape from the University of Chicago sums up the position very well in my opinion: What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks actually have in common is specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.
Religion is often used as a tool by terrorist organisations in recruiting and in seeking aid from abroad, but it is rarely the root cause.The general pattern in data supports these conclusions.
First, nearly all suicide terrorist attacks –301 of the 315 I studied –took place as part of organised political or military campaigns.
Second democracies are uniquely vulnerable to suicide terrorists: America, France, and India. Israel, Russia. Sri Lanka and Turkey have been the targets of almost every suicide attack of the past two decade.
Third suicide terrorist campaigns are directed toward a strategic objective from Lebanon to Israel to Sri Lanka to Kashmir to Chechnya. The sponsors of every campaign-18 organisations in all-are seeking to maintain political self determination.Before Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 there was no Hezbollah suicide terrorist campaign against Israel; indeed Hezbollah came into existence only after this event. Before the Sri Lankan military began moving into Tamil homelands of the Island in 1987, the Tamil Tigers did not use suicide attacks. Before the increase in the Jewish settlers on the West bank in the 1980”s Palestinian groups did not use suicide terrorist, and true to form, there has never been documented suicide attack in Iraq until the American Invasion in 2003.
It is essential America stage a planned withdrawal from Iraq. In fact I believe this is already occurring to a mild degree, despite recent rhetoric to the contrary, as there are currently 3 less brigades in operation.
I am quite sure If America had understood better the nature of the true conflicts in the region, factions kept at bay by a brutal Dictator, it would not have invaded Iraq ion the first place. I also think behind the scenes in Washington there is a growing realisation the US must get out of Iraq in a staged manner. Keep your eyes on the numbers of brigades not the rhetoric in the months ahead.
I laso think ther idea being advanced by the US that if we don’t fight theses Terrorists in Iraq, they will come after you in the USA and elsewhere is a fanciful notion.
We all know the weapons of mass destruction were a complete furphy; and I think history will judge the decision to invade Iraq one of the worst ill conceived wars in modern day times. It will take along time for America to recover from is loss of credibility in the world stage, to be respected as genuine peacekeeper who is able to help make the world a better a place.