Up Close And Terminal

Are Muslims really turning against the cult of the suicide bomber?

by Peter C. Glover (Oct. 2007)


“Muslims increasingly reject Osama bin Laden and oppose suicide bombings.” While The (London) Times’ (July 26, 2007) opening line captured the main findings of a new poll of Muslim opinion, the article captured something else – a palpable mood of hope that ran through the Western media’s coverage generally, for a new rapprochement with the Muslim world. But is it a realistic hope? Or are we in the West just keep clutching at straw poll idealism?

The Pew Research Center‘s Global Attitudes poll proved interesting. In Pakistan, we learned that support for suicide bombings had fallen from 33 percent in 2002 to just 9 percent. In Lebanon, currently experiencing a renewed upsurge in violence, support was down from 74 to 34 percent. In Bangladesh and Indonesia support had halved. Only among Palestinians did support for suicide/martyr bombings buck the trend, at 70 percent. The poll also revealed that Muslim confidence in Osama bin Laden’s leadership was down in seven Muslim countries, including Jordan where it fell from 56 percent in 2003 to 20 percent.

So will Osama be feeling the squeeze of moderate Muslim opinion? Will he and other Islamist leaders be holding policy review and consider abandoning suicide-bombing campaigns? Or, given the evidence of 1400-year long aggression against non-Muslims, does the media’s sense of hope tell us more about the on-going denial of the Western mindset when it comes to the Jihadist concept of ‘perpetual war’?

Killing for Allah? A key understanding

For decades the semtex waistcoat and explosive car trunk have been the preferred terrorist weapon – and with good reason. There has always been something deeply troubling to the human psyche, especially in the Judeo-Christian West, about would-be martyrs getting up close and personal with their victims. In WW2 Allied Commanders found the Japanese kamikaze penchant for martyrdom in the course of taking out military targets difficult to comprehend. Today, however, struggle even more with the Islamikaze’s total disdain for the distinction between military and civil targets. 

The reality is that the Judeo-Christian or biblical tradition condemns outright both murder (premeditated killing) and self-murder (suicide).  Under the Qur’anic scheme of things however, though suicide is condemned there are important and over-riding caveats. Self-sacrifice while “defending Islam” will be rewarded in heaven (Sura 2:216; 3:157; 4:74). So too is the killing of “infidels” or non-Muslims (Sura 2:191; 4:89) who “attack Islam” as the lives of non-Muslims are worth nothing or little. Thus self-sacrifice and killing of infidels in the defense of Islam collude, in the eyes of many of Islam’s conservative leadership, to become ‘Allah’s will’ in the perpetual war of Jihad. 

So what does the new survey tell us?

One of the most enduring TV images in recent months was the burning SUV crashed into the front doors of Glasgow Airport. If that attack and the earlier failed attacks in London tell us anything about the present generation of Islamic martyrs it is that many are, fortunately, more committed than competent.  A recent analysis of suicide attacks in Afghanistan bears this out.

In 43 percent of attacks in Afghanistan over a two-year period the only death caused was that of the suicide bomber. Incredibly, this means that about 90 suicide bombers succeeded only in killing themselves. In one period – from February 20 to June 20, 2006 – a stunning 26 of the 36 suicide bombers in Afghanistan, 72 percent, managed to kill only themselves.

Of course, as we have seen in Iraq, when bombers succeed in their mission the consequences can be devastating. But in Iraq, the chief reason suicide bombers have been more successful has been the strategic switch from hitting ‘hard’ military to ‘soft’ civilian targets. It should be no surprise then that the strategy of targeting civilians, who are often Muslim, together with high-profile botched attacks that fail to kill ‘infidels’, moderate Muslim support for suicide bombings should wane. But, as previous polls have told us (which is why the current one received so much attention), moderate Muslim opinion has consistently justified the campaign of violence and suicide bombings.  The question is: do fluctuations of Muslim opinion over strategy count for anything given that these same matters already appear settled – as matters of religious doctrine, not issues of mere political strategy?


Will moderates influence the Islamikazes?

As Ibn Warraq, born to Muslim parents and now a Muslim ‘apostate’ living in the USA, warns, “There are moderate Muslims, but no moderate Islam”. Quoting Warraq’s dictum, writer Mark Steyn points out that, “All of the official schools of Islamic jurisprudence commend sharia law and violent jihad. So a ‘moderate Muslim’ can find no formal authority to support his moderation.” This is a key understanding.

If Steyn and Warraq are right, then the vacillations of moderate Muslim opinion is irrelevant in the greater struggle or war of Jihad. When it comes to suicide bombings and the value of non-Muslim life Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohamed leaves the status of non-Muslim in no doubt, “We don’t make a distinction between civilians and non-civilians, innocents and non-innocents. And the life of an unbeliever has no value.”  And, in Unveiling Islam, two Muslim apostates, Ergun and Emir Caner, warn us what Islamists have long understood, “Strictly speaking, jihad means continuing warfare against unbelievers.”  As the Qu’ran says, “Fight with them until there is no more persecution and religion should only be for Allah.” (Sura 8:39). Or, put bluntly, never stop fighting until the only belief system globally is Islam.

The Pew pollsters asked for Muslim opinion on “forms of violence against civilian targets in the defense of Islam” (italics mine) only. Most Muslims, like most Westerners, do not actually read the Qu’ran and Hadith. So what does their opinion matter to those who do and who know what it actually teaches? As Bat Ye’or, author of Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide, writes: “Jihad ideology embodies the concept of perpetual war.” A perpetual war proclaimed by the Qu’ran itself. Whatever moderate Muslims may tell Western pollsters in anonymous comfort of their homes down as long line, they could never say in public as they would be going against the Qu’ran. In that sense it is the Muslim ‘radicals’, the Jihadists, who do not waver in their ‘opinion’ knowing full well that the Qu’ran demands servitude (dhimmitude) or death for all non-Muslim’s and their societies.

Until we in the West awake to the reality that Islam in its core teaching drives this 1400-year ‘perpetual war’, and not what we persist in wrongly characterizing as its ‘radical’ elements, we will continue to fail to understand the nature of Islam per se and the Jihadist mindset – and grasp at every straw poll of appeasing hope that comes along. Whatever the vacillating opinions of moderate Muslims or Western elites, it is the Islamic ‘radicals’, the hatemonger clerics and the suicide bombing martyrs who better understand and practice the teachings of the Qu’ran and thus true Islam.



“I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.” Qu’ran 8:12


“Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme.” Qu’ran 8:41


“Slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush for them.” Qu’ran 9:5


…or servitude

“Fight those who believe not in Allah…nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, even if they are of the People of the Book (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” Qu’ran 9:29

Peter C Glover is the author of The Politics of Faith: Essays on the morality of key current affairs, and has been extensively published on political & faith issues. For more of his writings see http://www.petercglover.com/


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