The following is an excerpt from The Clash of Civilizations by Panini available on Amazon. This is a great book for anyone who wish to understand effect that Islam has on the minds of Muslims and the threat that it poses to our civilization.
Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties; for the price that
theirs shall be the Paradise. They fight in Allah’s Cause, so they kill (others) and are killed.
Jihad (holy fighting in Allah’s Cause) is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.
I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved, so strike them over the necks, and smite over all their fingers and toes.
God is great! The stupid woman did it.
—Iraqi insurgent, 20082
Iraqi police arrested a woman named Samira Jassim, the self-proclaimed “Mother of the Believers,” in early 2009. Prior to her arrest Jassim had been a top recruiter of female suicide bombers, with at least 80 women successfully recruited, 28 of whom went on to launch deadly suicide attacks. Since women often go unsearched by male security personnel and can hide explosives fairly easily beneath their robes, they have become popular for use in suicide bombings. In 2007 there were only eight suicide attacks launched by women in Iraq; in 2008, there were 32
Jassim described the recruitment process in detail in an interview and a taped police confession. In the confession, she reveals that insurgents often raped women she targeted for recruitment. The targets would be ashamed and vulnerable afterward, and Jassim would come and work on their consciences, persuading them to redeem their lost honor through martyrdom. Jassim describes her work with two poor, downtrodden women in detail. She describes how she manipulated them psychologically, playing on their sense of hopelessness and holding out the potential glories for themselves and their families if they agreed to blow themselves up. In one case, a woman whose brothers were squabbling with her in-laws proved vulnerable to Jassim’s prolonged wheedling.
To many in the West, Jassim’s story can seem incredible. Why would a middle-aged mother of six participate in such a scheme? Her story illustrates many of the questions and misunderstandings that still surround the phenomenon of suicide bombing. Who becomes a suicide bomber? How are they recruited? What do they or the organizations who send them expect to accomplish? Do suicide attacks really have religious sanction?
SUICIDE BOMBERS—OVERVIEW AND MISCONCEPTIONS
Politicians and media outlets in the West prefer to promote the idea of suicide attacks being carried out by cowards or madmen, driven by poverty and poor education to desperate measures. The only problem with this picture of the problem is that it’s simply inaccurate. After three decades of study, we now know that suicide bombers tend to have a higher social background, higher income status, and higher education level than the people they live among. There is no meaningful link between poverty or psychological disorders and choosing to become a suicide terrorist. The unsettling reality is that suicide bombers are by and large normal enough people.
Several details provide a rough profile of the average suicide bomber. Most are single men of about 25 (although women are now being used more often) without children. By and large they are normally educated with slightly better than average economic prospects.6 Some have argued that suicide terrorism may even be more of a middle class than a lower class phenomenon. An example of this would be Hanadi Jaradat, a 29-year-old Palestinian lawyer. Wishing to avenge the deaths of her brother and fiancée, who were killed by Israeli Defense Forces, she blew herself up in a restaurant in Haifa, killing 20 other people.
When it comes to identifying motivations, suicide bombers are particularly hard to pin down. For some, like 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, religion is a factor but is also only part of the story. Atta was by all accounts extremely introverted and unfriendly and had difficulty making connections (or even keeping roommates) while he pursued a graduate degree in Germany in the early 90s. He lived a life without much in the way of romance or ordinary human connections, but he was not poor or uneducated. In fact, his education level was part of what made him appealing to al-Qaeda recruiters looking for participants in the 9/11 plot.
For other suicide bombers, like Iraqi Hasna Maryi, the primary motivation may not even be religious at all. Maryi was drawn into the world of terrorism when her brother attempted a suicide mission but failed. Although Maryi was not deeply religious herself, she was very attached to her brother and sought redemption on his behalf.9 This is not uncommon for female suicide bombers, for whom redemption or revenge (as in the case of Hanadi Jaradat) can be a common motivating factor.
There are also cases where suicide bombers are simply unwitting dupes, manipulated by terrorists to serve a cause they may not even believe in. One of the most outlandish examples of this was Anne-Marie Murphy in 1986. Murphy was an Irishwoman who had become pregnant by her Jordanian Arab boyfriend. The boyfriend promised to marry her back in his homeland and arranged for a flight to send her on ahead of him via Israel. The helpful fellow even went to the trouble of packing Murphy’s bags for her. When her luggage was checked in, however, the weight triggered an extra security check. Murphy was arrested for bringing several pounds of high explosives in her suitcase. The so-called boyfriend turned out to be a Syrian intelligence agent who was planning to blow up Murphy’s flight, killing all 370 on board.11 If his plot had gone forward, Murphy might have been classified as a suicide bomber. There is no way to tell exactly how many successful bombers may have been put in a similar spot. Researchers are still not fully agreed on how to classify or even count the suicide bombers who were deceived, drugged, or blackmailed into carrying out their attacks.
The general consensus among terrorism researchers is that we are better off trying to understand the motivation of the organizations which make use of suicide terrorism than the motivation of individual bombers themselves.13 Suicide terrorism is still an ongoing phenomenon, and the scientific investigation of it is always contingent upon new developments. For example, the social scientist Robert Pape produced a highly respected analysis of suicide bombing just prior to the Iraq invasion. Then in 2004 there was a rash of suicide attacks by insurgents in Iraq which completely threw off the dataset Pape had been working with.
The train bombing in Spain in 2004 illustrates some of the problems we have in classifying suicide attacks. Terrorists planted bombs on the trains and killed 191 people, making this one of the most destructive terror attacks since 9/11. When the perpetrators were later cornered by police, they blew themselves up. Not everyone agrees that the train bombing should be counted as a case of suicide terrorism since the plotters simply planted the bombs and may even have planned to carry out another attack later.15 Different scholars have different approaches to such questions, so it’s not hard to find conflicting reports about exactly how many “suicide attacks” have taken place. It all depends on how you define them.