OPINION: by Mark BrahamNews Weekly
Violent Jihadism - this century's nightmare
, October 27, 2007
discusses the important difference between martyrdom and suicide-terrorism.Islamic splinter groups, such as the terrorist Jihadists, have throughout modern history plagued not only Western civilisation but also mainstream Muslims who have migrated to, and prospered in, Western democracies.
The Hashishin (Assassins), a branch of the Isma-ili sect of Shi'ite Muslims, made it part of Isma'ili doctrine and practice to murder the sect's enemies as a sacred religious duty. Hasan ibn al-Sabbah, the founder of the sect, in the 11th century, commanded a network of strongholds all over Persia and Iraq with a corps of devoted terrorists and agents in the camps and cities of his enemies. Compare Iraq today.
The Thuggee (Thugs) were a well-organised confederacy of professional assassins who traced their origins back to seven Muslim tribes; they were later joined by Hindus. These gangs plagued India for 300 years. Their methods were to gain the confidence of wayfarers and travellers, and await the opportunity to strangle them by throwing a handkerchief or noose around their necks, then plunder and bury them.Pickaxe consecrated
This was all done accompanied by strict religious rites, which included the consecration of the pickaxe and the sacrifice of sugar.
The British abolished the cult by arresting its members. Many were hanged or transported.
Suttee, the burning of widows on their husbands' funeral pyres, was also abolished by the British.
The Islamic terrorists of today, suicide mass-murderers, who plague not only Western countries but selected Arab and Muslim states - Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Afghanistan - follow in the evil and unholy tradition of the Assassins and Thugs. As such, they are privately cursed by mainstream Muslims, and publicly by a growing number of courageous Muslims, or ex-Muslims, who put many Western journalists, politicians and lawyers to shame.
For example, Australian journalist Sally Neighbour, in an address to The Sydney Institute (February 20, 2007), Islamic terrorists as, "for the most part, thoughtful, educated idealists, who believe in the justness of their cause, to the point that they are willing to die for it". [Sally Neighbour, "Responses to Terrorism: What Works and What Doesn't?", The Sydney Papers
(The Sydney Institute), Vol. 19, No. 2, Autumn 2007, page 56.].
The first man in recorded history prepared to give his life for a cause was Abraham; this religious truth is recognised by Jews, Christians and Muslims and is axiomatic to the three monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Abraham taught that there is only "God the Creator and Lord of the Universe", which is the work of His goodness and wisdom, and Man, made in His image, who is to hallow his week-days labours by the blessedness of Sabbath-rest - such are the teachings of the Creation chapter of the Bible.
Abraham was not, in contrast to the Jihadist terrorists, seeking martyrdom. According to traditional Torah oral teaching, because Abraham proclaimed the Unity of God the Creator and scoffed at contemporary idol-worship, the powerful ruler Nimrod sought to slay him.
Abraham was tested 10 times by God. The first two involved attempts to have him killed. He went into hiding for 13 years rather than abandon his mission, then was tested again when he refused to bow to an idol and was cast into the fires from which, by a miracle, he survived intact.
Though it is unlikely that rabbis, or even close disciples, took part in the street demonstrations that followed the Aqaba peace summit in 2003, it is still instructive to contrast the behaviour of the Palestinians with that of the Israeli man in the street, as described by Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith
This is what this "thoughtful, educated idealist Muslim" has to say:
"After the Aqaba peace summit in June , both the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers encountered protests. Hardline Israelis resorted to demonstrating and jeering. Hardline Palestinians resorted to blowing up buses and the people in them. That's a life-and-death difference in choices.
"Many of my fellow liberals would argue that choices do not exist for Palestinians. They are economically impoverished and desperate. Not according to Dr Mohamed Al-Hindi, the political leader of Islamic Jihad. His response was part of a longer interview I conducted with him in Gaza - on camera and before the construction of Israel's security barrier.
" 'What's the difference,' I asked, 'between "suicide" and "martyrdom", as you folks now call it?'
" 'Suicide,' he replied, 'is done out of despair. But most of our martyrs were very successful in their earthly lives.'
"Al-Hindi's answer floored me. By his admission, what drives so many of today's suicide bombers is not that which the material world has failed to deliver to them, but something besides - perhaps the Koran's promises for the afterlife or, perhaps more precisely, the ideological exploitation of the Koran's promise of paradise.
"This much is clear: we liberals need to be asking as many tough questions of Palestinian officials as of their Israeli counterparts. Until we do, we'll always reduce Palestinians to the status of mere victims.
"And that does nothing to recognise their dignity. Or their capacity for making ethically sounder choices."
Jews do not seek martyrdom. Judaism teaches the Jew to live, teach and spread the Torah, the teaching of God, as revealed to Moses at Sinai. They are, however, bound to accept martyrdom rather than commit public apostasy by desecrating the Name of God.
During the war of annihilation waged by Roman Emperor Hadrian against Judaism, the readiness for martyrdom of young and old began to imperil the existence of the Jewish nation. The rabbis therefore decreed that only with regard to three fundamental laws - idolatry, incest and murder - should death be preferred to transgression.
The fact is that the suicide-murder-bombers' motivation is clearly driven by the promised afterlife - a carnal and corporal paradise involving the services of 72 virgins. The ruthless murder in pursuit of their "martyrdom" of innocent men, women and children, often Arabs and Muslims, is a grotesque distortion of the teachings of Abraham, hence of the revered figure in the Bible that Muslims claim, according to their interpretation, as their ultimate constitution and without which the Koran could not have been written.Truth spelt out
The truth has been spelt out by Mitt Romney, Governor of Massachusetts (2003-07), who is seeking the US Republican presidential nomination. He said in a speech at Yeshiva University, New York, on April 26 this year:
"What [former President] Jimmy Carter fails to understand is what so many fail to understand. Whether it's Hamas or Hezbollah; Al Qaeda or Shia and Sunni extremists, there is an overarching goal among the violent Jihadists - and it transcends borders and boundaries.
"That goal is to replace all modern Islamic states with a religious caliphate, to destroy Israel, to cause the collapse of the West and the United States, and to conquer the entire world.
"Jihadism - violent, radical, fundamental Jihadism - is this century's nightmare. It follows the same dark path as last century's nightmares: fascism and Soviet communism."- The author Mark Braham was a British Army officer during World War II, after which he migrated to Australia. An Orthodox Jew, he is author of Stronger than Fiction: Jews and Christians Are Natural Allies (London: Minerva Press, 1999).