“…a handful of people who don’t mind dying…” is how President Obama described Islam-inspired terrorists at a press conference at the recent G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey.
From my previous blog you will know that I spent the last month travelling in Spain, travel which took me to Spain’s capital Madrid, and to Madrid’s Atocha train station, scene of an horrific terrorist attack on 11 March 2004. In what was the deadliest terrorist attack in Spain’s history–referred to by Spaniards as ‘M-11’–ten bombs were placed inside backpacks and then planted on four cercanias, ‘commuter trains’. The bombs were detonated simultaneously by terrorists using cell phones during the height of the morning rush hour. That morning, 191 innocent commuters died and 1,800 were injured. An al Qaeda-inspired terrorist cell claimed responsibility for the bombings, citing Spain’s participation in the war in Iraq as their motivation. Later, when the terrorists who carried out the attack were surrounded by police, they blew themselves up rather than be captured.
I entered the Atocha train station for the first time in a reflective mood, my thoughts turning to the innocent people who were so brutally murdered there eleven years earlier. There was no plaque or memorial commemorating the 191 victims anywhere in the train station, at least none that I could see. I have since learned that a memorial garden was created in their memory in a park near Madrid’s famous Prado Museum.
No terrorist attack on the scale of the Madrid train station bombings had taken place in Europe until this past Friday the 13th in Paris. Before the nine terrorists had ended their murderous rampage, 129 lay dead (now 130) with hundreds more injured, almost 100 critically. The terrorists carried out their operation on Friday, fully intending to die; all wore identical suicide vests packed with ‘Mother of Satan’ explosives which they detonated at various points in their co-ordinated attacks.
Why did seven young men–in their late teens or 20s, at the prime of life–“not mind dying,” to use President Obama’s turn-of-phrase? (Was the president only feigning indifference? Let’s hope so.) To listen to the ‘experts’ in the media, the young men who willingly turn themselves into human bombs are “mad men,” “crazies,” “psychopathic killers.”
Earlier this month, Remembrance Day services were held to honour the young men who perished in World Wars I and II, and in the conflicts that followed. Undoubtedly, those who died–to a person–hoped to survive the war and return to their loves ones and former way-of-life. No so with the Paris terrorists.
Last night, for the first time, I heard someone reporting on the Paris attacks say the word “zealotry.” When I hear the word zealotry, I think of religious fervour. Was this an acknowledgment–finally–that the young men who blow themselves up are religiously-driven, at least in part? Islam does not condone suicide. The Qur’an never mentions suicide, and in the hadith, the written record of the sayings and actions of Muhammad and his companions, suicide is forbidden. How do terrorists then justify their actions? Suicide is held to be an act of martyrdom, and the one who commits suicide is regarded as a shahid, a ‘martyr’. Suicide is forbidden, but martyrdom is praised.
A prime example of the glorification of martyrdom is that of Palestinian terrorist Abu Jihad a.k.a. Khalid al-Wazir, responsible for the deaths of 125 Israelis. One of his ‘glorious’ feats was a bus high-jacking that resulted in the deaths of 37 Israelis, including twelve children. Last year, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah named a West Bank forest in his honour: the Martyr Khalil al-Wazir Forest.
Praise from family and friends who remain behind, a place in paradise after death: these are the rewards that await the shahid. Unlike the rest of Muslim males, the shahid is guaranteed a place in Islam’s paradise, depicted in the Qur’an as a garden of never-ending delights. There, the shahid will wear “clothing of fine, thick silk” (44:53); “eat and drink in health, reclining on couches” (52:19-20); marry “fair ones with wide lovely eyes” (52:20). The number of virgins allotted to him–72–is not stated in the Qur’an but found in one of the hadiths (al-Suyuti’s). The shahid gets to name 70 family members to paradise as well. How much do sensual incentives and sexual enticements like these influence young Muslim males to strap on suicide vests: only a failed terrorist can say.
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, France’s President Hollande declared war on the Islamic State (IS), the terrorist group that claimed responsibility. Yesterday, exactly a week after the Paris carnage, another terrorist group with the name al-Mourabitoun, aided by al-Qaeda affiliate al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), stormed the Radisson Hotel in Mali’s capital Bamako, firing at anyone who moved, killing 21. Who has heard of al-Mourabitoun before? We’re fighting a war against a global jihadist ‘cancer’ that is metastasizing rapidly. It’s getting to be quite a handful, isn’t it.