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New assassins queue eagerly for martyrdom

Daily Telegraph (England), Sep. 13, 2001
http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/ Off-site Link

islam, muslims, suicide bombers, world trade center, terrorism, jihad, religion news report provides news of interest to those who work in Christian apologetics and countercult ministriesn.  It includes information about religious cults, sects, new religious movements, and related issues, such as religious freedom, religious tolerance, and cult crimes.

The suicide bombers who hijacked four American aircraft and turned them into piloted missiles owe their origin to the medieval sect of Islam known as the Assassins. Its members would knife leading officials of the ruling dynasties, knowing that they faced certain death at the hands of their bodyguards.

They were called hashashin - hashish takers - because it was believed that their murderous frenzy could be caused only by taking a drug. Present-day assassins are also whipped up into a destructive fervour, but it has more to do with religion and politics than hashish.

The last people to see suicide bombers often report them smiling as if they can see their heavenly reward coming. Muslims believe martyrs receive the favours of 72 virgins in heaven.

In the Palestinian territories, which have produced at least a dozen suicide bombers this year, there is a clear profile. It is always a man, usually young, from late teens to 22, and often a shy, religious type.

Palestinians working for Hamas or Islamic Jihad, the two Palestinian Muslim organisations which send out suicide bombers, say they are besieged with candidates for early death. There is no shortage of men willing to sacrifice themselves to the cause.

Some are motivated by revenge after a friend or family member was killed by the Israeli army. For others with no prospects of finding a decent job, the attraction is glory, honour for their families and some financial security for those left behind.

Suicide bombers join the ranks of Palestinian martyrs, their portrait posted all over the city. Sweets are handed out on news of their deaths, in contrast to a normal wake, where only bitter coffee is consumed.

Their families receive 7,000 from the Iraqi government and other, less publicised support. It would take a labourer four years to earn that money in normal circumstances, but in current conditions, 11 months into the Palestinian intifada, it is a sum that can only be dreamed of.

For Muslims who believe in the cause, "martyrdom" is a blessed release from an intolerable situation. "The afterlife is very real to us," said a Jordanian commentator.

For the past 11 months of the intifada, Islamic scholars have debated whether blowing yourself up constitutes suicide or martyrdom. Some Saudi scholars continue to denounce suicide as a sin, but the argument has been won by the radicals who see it as a legitimate means of jihad, or holy struggle.

The term "suicide bomber" has been replaced with "martyrdom operation". Such is the prestige of the suicide bomber that no one in the Palestinian territories would dare to raise a voice against the practice.

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