Seven years after 9/11, it may well be that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of suicide terrorism and a shift toward advanced technologies that will enable jihadist bombers to carry out attacks and live to fight another day.Apparently, from an Islamist perspective the very existence of an option for carrying out terrorist attacks that do not require them to give up their lives would render suicide bombings forbidden:
This turn to technology, however, is not devoid of religious aspects: although dying in battle is undisputedly holy, many scholars claim that any intentional taking of one’s own life is forbidden, thus outlawing suicide attacks altogether. Even religious rulers who endorse suicide attacks consider them to be a last resort, to be used only when all other means are exhausted.Bernard Lewis, in The Crisis of Islam, questions what these religious authorities have been saying till now about suicide bombings:
“Martyrdom operations are legitimate, and they are among the greatest acts of combat for Allah’s cause,” said Bashir bin Fahd al-Bashir, a Saudi preacher and one of Al Qaeda’s most popular religious authorities, in a recent sermon. “But they should not be allowed excessively. They should be allowed strictly on two conditions: 1. The commander is convinced they can definitely inflict serious losses on the enemy. 2. This cannot be achieved otherwise.”
The meaning of such dictates is clear: carrying out suicide attacks when there are alternatives that would allow the bomber to survive should be considered “intihar,” the ultimate sin of taking one’s own life without religious justification.
All these different extremist groups sanctify their action through pious references to Islamic texts, notably the Qur'an and the traditions of the Prophet, and all three claim to represent a truer, purer, and more authentic Islam than that currently practiced by the vast majority of Muslims and endorsed by most though not all of the religious leadership. They are, however, highly selective in their choice and interpretation of sacred texts. (p. 138)Up until this point, these same authorities who are advocating the use of new technology have been out on a Koranic limb in permitting suicide bombings, according to Lewis:
Those who are killed in the jihad are called martyrs, in Arabic and other Muslim languages shahid...The Arabic term shahid also means "witness" and is usually translated "martyr," but it has a rather different connotation. In Islamic usage the term martyrdom is normally interpreted to mean death in a jihad and reward is eternal bliss, described in some detail in early religious texts. Suicide, by contrast, is a mortal sin and earns eternal damnation, even for those who would otherwise have earned a place in paradise. The classical jurists distinguish clearly between facing certain death at the hands of the enemy and killing oneself by one's own hand. The one leads to heaven, the other to hell. Some recent fundamentalist jurists and others have blurred or even dismissed this distinction, but their view is by no means unanimously accepted. The suicide bomber is thus taking a considerable risk on a theological nicety. (p38-39 emphasis added)Having now bypassed the issue of suicide, there still remains a question of sharia that these same 'religious authorities' seem to ignore:
Because holy war is an obligation of the faith, it is elaborately regulated in the sharia. Fighters in a jihad are enjoined not to kill women, children, and the aged unless they attack first, not to torture or mutilate prisoner, to give fair warning of the resumption of hostilities after a truce, and to honor agreements.Unfortunately, Lewis does not give a source for where Muslims are enjoined to 'honor agreements'. Pity.
Even assuming the focus turns from suicide bombings to more technologically advanced methods, certain religious issues supposedly remain according to Lewis.
...The medieval jurists and theologians discuss at some length the rules of warfare, including questions such as which weapons are permitted and which are not. There is even some discussion in medieval texts of the lawfulness of missile and chemical warfare, the one relating to mangonels and catapults, the other to poison-tipped arrows and the poisoning of enemy water supplies. On these points there is considerable variation. Some jurists permit, some restrict, some disapprove of the use of these weapons. The stated reason for concern is the indiscriminate casualties that they inflict. [emphasis added]Of course, these days, the concern of Islamist religious authorities about indiscriminate casualties centers on whether there is enough!
At no point do the basic texts of Islam enjoin terrorism and murder. At no point--as far as I am aware--do they even consider the random slaughter of uninvolved bystanders.Sometimes you have to wonder if Bernard Lewis is reading the same texts that the Islamists are. This supposed theological wrangling by these imams seem to be more just rubber stamping than anything else.
In any case, the fact that Islamist terrorists are moving away from suicide bombings is a two-edged sword according to Bergman:
The good news is that suicide bombing seems to be on the wane. The bad news is that Western forces will almost certainly face a new breed of highly educated Qaeda terrorist.Unqualified good news is hard to come by in the Middle East.
Crossposted on Soccer Dad