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Monday, 3 October 2011

Suicide Bombing: How it is 'Religiously Justified'?

The concept of suicide bombing is one of the most disputed concepts within the field of religious terrorism, and forms the cornerstone of the argument that faith cannot be the root cause of religious terrorism. However, Islamic suicide terrorists justify their behaviour in terms of their religion, and employ scriptural reference and the concept of jihad to justify their actions: 

‘Let those who fight in the way of Allah, who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him we shall bestow a vast reward’.  However, some scholars have proposed that there is no religious component for suicide bombing. Pape questioned how the shaheed could claim to act in the name of Allah when suicide is clearly prohibited in the Qur’an: ‘nor kill (or destroy) yourselves’, and ‘…make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction…’

The act of suicide terrorism has been entrenched in religiosity by radical clerics, who have equated it with martyrdom as dying in the name of faith is a central principle of jihad. The primary line of argument proposed by Islamists rests on the semantic distinction between suicide in the name of Allah and martyrdom (istishahad), which distinguishes it from a normal case of suicide, and thus makes it permissible within Islam.

Today's Al-Qaeda splinter and successor groups…often cite the same Qur'anic passages and hadith that justified the violent jihad of the seventh century. Religious clerics issue fatwas citing them. Perhaps the most prominent of these is Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has built upon such interpretations to justify suicide bombing, other acts of terrorism, and the murder of civilians, all in the cause of jihad. He has called suicide bombing a supreme form of jihad for the sake of God and, therefore, religiously legitimate.[1]

This implies that suicide terrorism in the name of Islam cannot be separated from religion, and it has come to represent the pinnacle of jihad. Indeed, the distinction between martyrdom in the name of Allah, which  is the greatest of deeds, and suicide, which is Qur’anically defined as haram, ‘has become marred as the former is being justified with the textual support for the latter’,[2] due the proliferation of suicide bombing. The Islamist interpretation of jihad involves engaging every apostate and non-Muslim in conflict, and ‘the ideological basis of such an interpretation has deep roots in Islamic theology.’[3] Factors such as oppression and poverty are often proposed as the primary motivation for suicide terrorism, but it is to faith and the doctrine of jihad that the perpetrators refer to as being the key root causes. Indeed, ‘the ranking of religion over politics by suicide bombers is widely corroborated in studies and interviews.’[4]

[1] Bukay (2006), pp. 27-36
[3] Bukay (2006), pp. 27-36
[4] Gillooly (2007), p. 20

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