Terrorism

Suicide bombers: a myth detonated

Some western analysts have argued that suicide killing is deeply embedded in the Islamic tradition. But if that were so, why was ‘revolutionary suicide’ unknown in Sunni Islam before the late 20th century; why have not more militant Islamist movements adopted this tactic; and why have both Hamas and Hizbollah abandoned it? It’s certainly true that Hamas drew upon the Quran and Hadith to motivate the bombers. But the suicide attack was in fact invented by the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, a nationalist, separatist group with no time for religion, who’ve claimed responsibility for over 260 suicide operations in two decades. Robert Pape of the University of Chicago has investigated every single suicide attack worldwide between 1980 and 2004 and concluded that there’s little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any religion for that matter. For instance, of thirty-eight suicide attacks in Lebanon during 1980s, eight were committed by Muslims, three by Christians and twenty seven by secularists and socialists. What all suicide operations do have in common, however, is a strategic goal: ‘to compel liberal democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland. Suicide bombing is, therefore, essentially a political response to military occupation. IDF statistics show that of all Hamas’ suicide attacks, only 4 per cent targeted civilians in Israel proper, the rest being directed against West Bank settlers and the Israeli army.

 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 December 2015 on page no. 4

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