Suicide Bombers, Allah’s New Martyrs

Farhad Khosrokhavar, translated by David Macey

Published by Pluto Press. Distributed in the United States by the University of Michigan Press. 2005

In the western media the suicide bomber has become a familiar image in newspapers and on television. In Palestine, Iraq, Saudia Arabia, Indonesia and elsewhere, the results of suicide bombing have been devastating. What drives young men and women to become suicide bombers ? This is not a question that is often addressed.

This remarkable book, already a bestseller in Europe, provides some of the answers, and explores how the suicide bomber relates to the concept of the Martyr in fundamentalist Islam. Farhad Khosrokhavar contrasts it with the idea of the Martyr in Christianity. Most importantly, he offers a clear insight into the different ways in which the concept is viewed within Islam, including divisions within Islamic fundamentalist groups, which change according to the political situation of the country in which they are based.

Drawing on extensive interviews with jailed Islamist militants, Farhad Khosrokhavar examines differing attitudes towards the ‘sacred death’ in various Islamic countries, including Iran, Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt. He also investigates transnational networks such as Al-Qaeda, offering portraits of various prisoners who belong to the group.

Farhad Khosrokhavar distinguishes between two types of Martyrs : those from the Third World, who are excluded from what modernity has to offer ; and the minority who live at the heart of the Western world – a mainly middle-class Diaspora from the Middle East and the Maghreb who are at ease with several cultural codes, but whose experience of the West is still marked by racism and discrimination.

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