Sunday, June 03, 2007

Meditations on the phenomenon of the suicide bomber

David Edwards raises himself ever higher in my esteem with this piece.

"Although it has almost never been reported, there had never been a suicide bomb attack in Iraq before the 2003 invasion. The UN's IRIN news network reported on March 8 that a 41 year-old Iraqi woman, Um Abdallah, was learning how to turn herself into a suicide bomber. Revulsion, horror, incomprehension - isn't her decision the epitome of the 'alienness' of foreign culture to many Britons? And yet IRIN fills in some of the background:

"Um Abdallah is one of thousands of Iraqis who have lost their relatives in the past four years. Her two boys and one girl were killed during a US military attack in her neighbourhood.

"'My husband was killed four months ago by Iraqi forces. Killed alongside him were my son-in-law and his two children. I cannot even remember how many bullets the children had in their bodies,' she said.

"She does not know exactly when she is going to detonate herself but she is sure she will be ready whenever she is asked." (IRIN, 'Killings drive women to become suicide bombers,' March 8, 2007)

Is Um Abdallah really such an alien being? She has lost her sons and daughter, her husband, and other loved ones besides. She has lost everything. Is her response really so impossible to comprehend? Is not our response to wish we could somehow do something to relieve her suffering and protect her from her own plan precisely because her suffering is so comprehensible? And yet, if our media are to be believed, our reaction should simply be one of loathing for this 'alien' product of an 'alien' culture.

So much of what we are taught to hate is actually the product of suffering - real, comprehensible and very human - rather than of some weird, mystical phenomenon called 'evil'. And far too much of that suffering originates with our own lack of compassion, our own system of domination and exploitation preaching hate. As Nietzsche said so well:

"Mistrust all in whom the urge to punish is strong!""

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