Do Suicide Bombers Go to Heaven?

A remarkable dichotomy in the Arab newspapers tells a grim story. “Suicide bombers” in the English dailies become “martyrs,” in Arabic newspapers, without exception. A poor translation? A faux pas? A slip? An error of judgment? Or perhaps a serious dichotomy of belief? In Qur’an, one fails to find a single reference that would encourage killing innocent people; there is also no reference that would suggest using young people as human ammunition either. Are there any causes that justify these actions, any cause, even when there is a threat to religion or sovereignty? God gave us a source code and that is the final word, not its interpretations for the convenience of those who want to use religion to exploit others.

Recruiting for suicide bombers is at its peak; many positions are vacant, no experience required, no intelligence required, no education required, no questions asked, no credit checked; no bar for race color or creed. The applicant must be ready to accept heaven as the reward. The irony is many are responding, many are accepting the job and many are getting “dispatched” to heaven; to great satisfaction of the employers, the employees will never return to complain about a broken contract. Can there be a better bargain for any employer? Madison Avenue may have its slogans that sell billions of hamburgers but nothing beats the slogan for suicide bomber recruiters, “one way ticket to the moon.” On needs to examine the causes of the success of this theme.

An oft repeated theme in Qur’an refers to life hereafter—not reincarnation but the life in final abode. Giving a name to one’s home is a common practice; I saw in Karachi a home with a carved name: “Temporary Abode.” What people often fail to understand that the final abode is not offered at the risk of dismantling the present abode? In fact, much of the teaching of Islam goes to inculcate taking full interest in life and living it fully. As a result suicide has clearly been forbidden; it is listed as a cowardly act. Every creature of God, man being no exception, has a purpose, Qur’an states categorically. Man does not have the option of going against the plan of God. This is the reason why Arabic newspapers never call the terrorists, suicide bombers, for that would connote clearly that it was an un-Islamic act. A “Muslim suicide bomber” would therefore tantamount to an oxymoron. And obviously, newspapers do not want to take the responsibility of deciding this issue. The newspapers may use the word equivalent for terrorist for all others so labeled except where a suicide is involved. So that settles the issue of translating suicide bombers as martyrs—it is an easy escape; fully understandable.

Now comes the question why is the “one way ticket to the moon,” such a hot ticket? I will list three reasons for this: Impressionability, helplessness, and camaraderie. Young minds are impressionable; young destitute people feel helpless and violated and camaraderie is in the genes of man (and now we know in women as well). To defeat them at their game, the world needs to understand how to counter these motivations. Those exploiting young minds are their own people, who often come across as role models—from Osama Bin Ladin to Saddam Hussain. Unless their own people disown them and disinherit them, outside opinions will not hold well. We need to show the young people that they are not as helpless as they have been made to belief. Our actions must state this and mere words will not do. And finally, to focus the camaraderie, we need to get the word out that what they are doing, committing suicides, is a coward act, a sin in Islam and a heavy price to pay for that elusive, “one way ticket to the moon.”

If history bears me out, war and violence have never been an answer to human problems; Gandhi started a movement of “ahinsa,” a peaceful, nonviolent movement to give the world a fresh understanding of being firm and defiant. Not much can change in human psychology in a few decades. We are still the same people we were a hundreds years ago. Why not give peace a chance.