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Suicide Missions: Nothing Islamic about it

By M. Zajam, TwoCircles.net,

What is common between Kiyoshi Ogawa, Hossein Fahmideh and Andrew Joseph Stack III ? They all died on a suicide mission for a cause they strongly felt about. Thanks to media and some groups, Suicide missions are projected to associate only with Islam. It is forgotten that neither Muslims are the first one to use it or will be the last one. The concept of self-sacrifice has long been a part of war and was used by many in conflicts.

Renowned Political Scientist Robert Pape of Chicago University, in his book “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism“ has done analysis of suicide terrorism from a strategic, social, and psychological point of view. His is the first complete analysis of suicide based on data from 315 suicide terrorism campaigns around the world from 1980 and 462 individual suicide terrorists. The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world’s religions. Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland” It is important that Americans understand this growing phenomenon.

Patterns of timings, nationalist goals and the targeting of democracies reveal its logical, not irrational, nature. The targets selected by suicide terrorists suggest nationalist, not religious, aims.

While describing about the profile of suicide bombers, he says “In general, suicide attackers are rarely socially isolated, clinically insane, or economically destitute individuals, but are most often educated, socially integrated, and highly capable people who could be expected to have a good future”. He establishes 462 individuals in his “universe” of suicide terrorists available for analytical purposes in the period 1982-1986 were 71% Communists/Socialists, 21% Islamists, 8% Christians.
He also mentioned in his book that the notion that Islamic fundamentalism is bent on world domination is “pure fantasy.”


Self-sacrifice or suicide missions have very long history. In 1831, During the  Belgian Revolution, Dutch Lieutenant Jan van Speijk detonated his own ship in the harbour of Antwerp to prevent its capture by the Belgians. Prussian soldier Karl Klinke who sacrificed his life in an effort to blow a hole in a  Danish  fortification at the Battle of Dybbøl in 1864.

Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff intended to assassinate Adolf Hitler by suicide bomb in 1943, but was unable to complete the attack.

In March 1943, Clarence Cull arrested and charged with attempting to assassinate President Franklin D. Roosevelt by suicide bombing.

Second World War saw use of Kamikaze (means “Divine Wind” in Japanese) pilots on suicide mission by Japan. Close to 7,465 Kamikazes flew to their deaths killing 3,048 allied sailors and another 6,025 wounded. In 1944–45, Shinto belief was used in the promotion of nationalist sentiment. Students were asked to ritually recite its oath to protect Imperial family and offer them courageously to the State. The ultimate offering was to give up one’s life. It was an honor to die for Japan and the Emperor.

Acts of Kamikaze were glorified by carrying out ceremonies before departing on final mission. They were given the flag of Japan  inscribed with inspirational and spiritual words. They put on a hachimaki headband with the rising sun, and a senninbari, a “belt of a thousand stitches” sewn by a thousand women who made one stitch each. They also composed and read a death poem.

During the Battle for Berlin the German Air Force flew “Self-sacrifice missions” against Soviet held bridges over the Oder River. These missions were flown by pilots of the Leonidas Squadron under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Heiner Lange. 
In the 1950s, Viet Minh “death volunteers” were used against the French colonial army.

On 6 January 1960, National Airlines Flight 2511 exploded mid air by a suicide bomber killing 33 person while enroute from New York to Miami. Julian A. Frank, a lawyer from New York was the suspected suicide bomber. Frank had been under investigation for fraud and embezzlement at the time of his death, and had also taken out large amounts of life insurance shortly before boarding the aircraft.

In May 1967, US Marine Commander in Vietnam Lieutenant General Lewis Walt had informed that North Vietnamese were using suicidal tactics in their attack against the allies. Many attacks were carried by North Vietnamese suicide squads.
First Suicide Mission in Arab World

In 1972, Three Japanese Red Army (JRA) gunmen have opened fire on crowds at Lod International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, killing 26 people and injuring dozens more. One of the men ran out onto the tarmac, shot passengers disembarking an El Al flight and then killed himself with his own hand grenade.

A second man was shot by security guards and a third was arrested.

This was the first suicide mission in Israel and Arab world. JRA had allied with Marxist-Leninist group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). JRA volunteers had trained many Palestinians groups in Japanese martial art and other Japanese warfare techniques including Kamikaze.

The second suicide mission in Arab world took place in Iran in 1980 when 13-year old Hossein Fahmideh detonated himself as he ran up to an Iraqi tank during Iran-Iraq war. Car bombing of Iraqi embassy in 1981 in Beirut, 1983 bombing of US embassy in Lebanon and October 1983 bombing of of US Marine barracks took suicide bombing to new level. 

Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) a secular nationalist party of Lebanon had its volunteers willing to sacrifice their lives through suicide attacks against occupying Israeli forces. In 1985 SSNP member Sana’a Mehaidli killed herself when she was just 16, against an Israeli checkpoint in Lebanon becoming the first SSNP member to sacrifice life.

Suggeeswara Senadhira, former associate director of the Regional Center for Strategic Studies in Colombo, Sri Lanka also rejects idea of linking suicide attack with any religion. He writes, during the Lebanese civil war, some 70 percent of suicide attackers were Christians.

LTTE the most dreaded

Lebanon saw many bombing but LTTE perfected the art of suicide bombing and used effectively as weapon in Sri Lankan war. They were considered most dreaded and successful terrorists organisation due to their suicide squad.  Among Tiger victims: Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa , the head of the Sri Lankan air force, a minister of national security, an opposition leader and a former prime minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi. In July 2001, they blew up half of the Sri Lankan national airline’s small fleet of jets. LTTE is credited to develop the suicide vests, which can be used to strap around body. LTTE carried out close to 115 suicide bombings. LTTE used women close to 30 percent of the time when carrying out such suicide attacks. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2008 report said that the LTTE is one of the most dangerous and deadly extremist outfits in the world and the world should be concerned about the outfit as they had ‘inspired’ networks worldwide, including the al-Qaeda in Iraq. 

Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) had used proxy bomb also known as a human bomb in the early 1990s, whereby people were forced to drive car bombs into British military targets. On 24 October 1990 armed IRA militants took the family of Patrick “Patsy” Gillespie hostage. Gillespie was a Catholic who worked as a cook for the British Army. The IRA forced him to drive a car loaded with 1,000 pounds of explosives to the British Army checkpoint and detonated it once he arrived at the checkpoint. Gillespie and five soldiers died in the blast.

Gillespie’s funeral Bishop Edward Daly said Bishop Edward Daly said the I.R.A. and its supporters werethe complete contradiction of Christianity.”They may say they are followers of Christ,” he said. “Some of them may even still engage in the hypocrisy of coming to church, but their lives and their works proclaim clearly that they follow Satan.”

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party based on revolutionary socialism and Kurdish nationalism also used suicide bombing in campaign against Turkey in its fight for independent Kurdistan.

Iraq saw surge in suicide bombing, at its peak in 2007, on average 21 persons were being killed due to suicide attack. Suicide mission was was totally absent from the successful Afghan Jihad against the Soviet Union. Even during initial phase of US Afghanistan operations did not see any suicide mission. Only after Iraq suicide bombing started troubling US, we slowly saw this tactics being repeated in Afghanistan.

2008 July 27 Jim D. Adkisson opened fire in the Tennessee Valley  Unitarian  Universalist Church in Knoxville,Tennessee, killing two and injuring seven before being tackled to the ground by congregation members. A note found in his SUV indicated this was intended as a suicide attack,

On February 18, 2010, Andrew Joseph Stack III, crashed his plane into Building which housed US Internal Revenue Service in Austin, Texas, USA, killing himself and one person. Thirteen others were injured, two seriously. In his suicide note Joseph mentioned his dislike for IRS and his long running feud with the organization.
In US alone close to 350 school shootings, apart from other shooting incidents, have taken place since 1992, majority of them resulted in attackers killing themselves or killed by the police.

On 31 August 1995, Chief minister Beant Singh was killed by a suicide bomber. Babbar Khalsa claimed responsibility for the assassination, 

Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackeray had called on Hindus to form suicide bomber squads. He said suicide bombers, along with bombs planted in Muslim neighborhoods, were needed “to protect the nation and all Hindus.”

Few former soldiers, ex-police personnel had and victims of Maoist guerrillas have formed Nepal Defence Army with suicide bombers to fight Islamic and Christian zealots as well as communists. They have claimed to train five suicide bombers ready to strike. 

Suicide missions have been carried out sans religious or geographical limitation. Unfortunately Islam bashers are projecting as if Muslims have invented it and monopolized it. Robert Pape book has clearly rejected linking of any religion with suicide missions.

Islam on Suicide Missions

Islam clearly prohibits both suicide and killing of innocents.

“O ye who believe!… [do not] kill yourselves, for truly Allah has been to you Most Merciful.  If any do that in rancour and injustice, soon shall We cast him into the Fire…” (Qur’an 4:29-30).

“And fight in the way of God against those who fight you. But do not transgress the limits. Truly God does not love transgressors.” (Surah 2:190)

“And do not spread discord on the (face of the) earth”(Surah alBaqarah V. 60)

The Quran clearly states that the killing of (even) one innocent person is equivalent to massacre of all humankind because it is like opening the floodgates that creates a situation beyond anyone’s control; while saving one life is equivalent to the rescue of all humankind. 

Our Prophet Mohammad (PUBH) has said that Allah takes mercy upon those who take mercy upon fellow human beings. You treat the inhabitants of earth with compassion and the inhabitant of Heaven (Allah) shall show compassion towards you (Tirmizi, Abu Dawood).
Hazrat Abu Bakr, the first leader of Islam after Prophet Muhammad, gave these commandments prior to dispatching army to Syria in battle against Roman Empire. This also established the conduct of war for later Muslim generations:

“Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules to keep by heart: Do not commit treachery, nor depart from the right path. You must not mutilate, neither kill a child or aged man or woman. Do not destroy a palm tree, nor burn it with fire and do not cut any fruitful tree. You must not slay any of the flock or herds or the camels, save for your subsistence. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them to that to which they have devoted their lives. You are likely, likewise, to find people who will present to you meals of many kinds. You may eat; but do no forget to mention the name of God.”

A fatwa was issued against suicide attack. It says “suicide bombings and attacks against civilian targets are not only condemned by Islam, but render the perpetrators totally out of the fold of Islam, in other words, to be unbelievers”. “They can’t claim that their suicide bombings are martyrdom operations and that they become the heroes of the Muslim ummah [nation], no, they become heroes of hellfire, and they are leading towards hellfire,” he said. “There is no place for any martyrdom and their act is never, ever to be considered jihad [holy war],” he said. “Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses or ifs or buts.” 

Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, Imam of Makka’s Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia, has also denounced terrorism saying No Room for Terrorism in Islam. He also condemned suicide bombing as ‘haram’ and un-Islamic.

Monopoly of non-religious

It is our failure that we are not able to convince others about the acts committed by few, which have no sanction of Islam. It is also propagated that Muslims are brainwashed in the name of Islam to wage war which is labeled as Jihad and commit suicide attacks. On the contrary, individuals involved in these heinous acts have nothing to do with Islam. One report suggests that Pentagon and Intelligence analysts concede privately that our foes also have a voracious appetite for pornography. Many laptops seized from the Taliban and al-Qaeda are loaded with obscene materials.

Most publicized Jihadi suicide attack in History was of September 11th 2001 attack on various targets in USA. Al Qaeda operatives were blamed for same. Some of the hijackers accused in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States spent their last nights in Boston looking for illicit sex as they prepared to crash two planes into the World Trade Center. First of all, it is unimaginable that a religious person will commit suicide, in case he does decide to give up his life, it is beyond belief that he will spend his last night looking for prostitutes.

Former Rhodes College professor Quintan Wiktorowicz has done extensive study for his book “ Radical Islam Rising: Muslim Extremism in the West”. Part of his studies he met and interviewed hundreds of radicals. Wiktorowicz found that very religious people were most resistant to radicalization and on the contrary, it was people who did not have a good grounding in the religion who were the most likely to be attracted by radical Islam.

One of the largest ever opinion poll conducted by Gallup in Islamic world found out that the overwhelming majority of Muslims – 93 percent – condemned the Sep 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. Among the seven percent who viewed the Sep 11 attacks as “completely justified “not one gave religious justification” for their views, instead expressing their fear of US plans for occupation and domination of the Muslim world. As per Gallup, “Politics, not piety, differentiate moderates from radicals” in the Islamic world

Robert Pape book also proves the point beyond doubt that nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider tobe their homeland.

Lindsey O’Rourke, doctoral student in political science at the University of Chicago has done thorough studies on female suicide bombers, writing a piece in New York Times, also debunked the link between religion and suicide bombing. She wrote, more than 85 percent of female suicide terrorists since 1981 committed their attacks on behalf of secular organizations; many grew up in Christian and Hindu families. She also found out that motivating factors for female bombers are same as male bombers.

95 percent of female suicide attacks occurred as part of military campaign against foreign occupying forces, suggesting that, at a macro level, the main strategic logic is to create or maintain territorial sovereignty for their ethnic group.  She pointed out that all secular organizations that employ suicide bombings have used female attackers early and often. For instance, 76 percent of attackers from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey have been women, as have 66 percent of those from Chechen separatist groups, 45 percent of the Syrian Socialist National Party’s and a quarter of those from the Tamil Tigers.

Muslims failed to counter initial attacks to defame Islam which gave strength to Islam bashers. Islam bashers after attacking Islam as religion on whole now started attacking its elements like Prophet Mohammad, Quran, Shariah, Hijab and Islamic way of life. In this information age, Muslims need to defend any attack on Islam peacefully and logically with much greater speed, before it goes out of control. These propagandas, which have managed to defame the Islam and demoralize Muslims to a certain extent, have really failed to check the growth of Islam. As per a recent survey by a Britain based organization, number of converts to Islam has soared in past decade in United Kingdom. The report estimated around 5,200 men and women have adopted Islam over the past 12 months, including 1,400 in London alone. Nearly two-thirds were women, more than 70 per cent were white and the average age at conversion was 27.

These suicide missions were never linked to any religion in the past so it should not be done in present or in future. It is heinous crime and should be condemned by each and every one irrespective of religion, creed or community of perpetrators or victims.

Other articles by M. Zajam

Photo Courtesy: lewrockwell.com, markhumphrys.com, dailymail.co.uk,