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Death Cults of War
Unlike any other.


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So how will the next suicide bomber disguise him or herself to execute an Israeli-killing mission? Now that every orthodox Jew with black hat and side curls or every Israeli soldier getting on a bus could be a suicide bomber in disguise, what new stratagem will Islam’s death cultists adopt? I advise the Israeli secret police that the next suicide bomber will actually be two: a seeming or actual mother and a child; after all what could be more innocent than such a pair mounting a bus or pushing a baby carriage through a Tel Aviv shopping mall?

How can we account for this almost two years of suicide terrorism which has taken four Israeli lives for every Arab bomber? Assuming that each of these terrorists has been a willing accessory, this kind of suicide must come out of a cultural pattern centered on a cult of death worship. And it may be interpretation by Muslim clerics of the Koran that is responsible for this wave of Arab suicides and other acts of terrorism. For example, the Imam Abdel-Samie Mahmoud Ibrahim Moussa, in his Friday, June 6, sermon at the Grand Mosque of Rome, asked for “Allah’s help in the destruction of the homes and destruction of the enemies of Islam, for their annihilation, and the victory everywhere of the Nation of Islam.” According to the Deutsche Press news agency, the Grand Mosque of Rome is Europe’s largest Islamic culture center and gets financial backing, naturally, from Saudi Arabia. The 32-year-old Imam was removed June 13 from his post, not by Egypt’s al Azhar University that appointed him in the first place, but by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government.

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Cults which prefer death to life in the name of salvation are to be found in other cultures. Some cultists take their own lives without endangering the innocent, others believe in taking everybody with them. The mass suicide poisoning in November 1978 in Jonesville took 913 lives. Some 900 men, women and children were burnt alive in Uganda in March 2000 by cult leaders who called themselves the “Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments.” In these tragedies, however, the cultists did not take the lives of innocent bystanders as Osama bin Laden’s Islamic followers did on September 11, 2001 or the Aun Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) cult whose followers in 1995 placed eleven bags of sarin, a nerve gas invented by the Nazis, at a busy subway station in Tokyo. Twelve people were killed and more than 5,500 injured by one of the most toxic substances known to science. Sarin, as Saddam Hussein knew, has been described as a perfect terrorist weapon odorless, colorless and relatively cheap to manufacture.

History has other examples of cults and religions whose followers prefer death to life in the name of salvation, who seek suicide in the name of some eschatological hope, the arrival of Judgment Day or a Messiah (or in Islam, the Mahdi). In 18th century Czarist Russia there was a religious sect known as the “Old Believers,” the Raskolniki, whom the Russian Orthodox church regarded as dangerous heretics. In his biography of Catherine the Great, Henri Troyat wrote that the Raskolniki “decided to sacrifice themselves upon a funeral pyre in order to escape from a world ruled by the Evil One.” Horrified at their pronouncement, the Empress decreed that the Raskolniki would come under her personal protection.

Writes Troyat:

But they had taken a liking to collective suicide. They continued to give themselves up to the flames, no longer in order to escape justice but in order to enter the Kingdom of God as quickly as possible…A ukase was promulgated authorizing the Raskolniki to live according to their beliefs. They felt no gratitude to the Empress. Making it easier for them to exercise their faith would only diminish their mystic zeal, they thought….The paths that led to Heaven must be paths of suffering. Tolerance, which softened souls, was a snare of the Devil.

The suicide bombers recruited in the Middle East live by a death cult philosophy which legitimates the destruction of innocent bystanders as a way of achieving paradise. What is particularly noticeable in the Middle East after 9/11 was the openness with which leading spokesmen praised the megadeaths and suicide in the name of Allah.

Abdallah Al-Naggar, a religious columnist for the Egyptian government daily Al-Gumhuriya, described the differences between a “Muslim believer’s” approach to death and that of his enemies. His article, as translated by The Middle East Media Research Institute a few weeks after 9/11, can be read as an endorsement of the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings.

In the Egyptian newspaper Al wafd, (April 27, 1996), Sheikh Muhammad Sayed al-Tantawi defended suicide bombings: “One who blows himself up among enemies, in order to defend his land, is considered a martyr.” On April 4, 1996, according to the Egyptian paper Al Shaab, Sheik Tantawi said, “the youth of the Islamic resistance who blow themselves up in order to cause casualties, are considered the greatest of those who die, because they die as martyrs.” Asked specifically to state the position of the sharia on someone who kills himself in an explosion, Sheik Tantawi said: “Those who say such action is haram [forbidden] must first ask themselves: what is the reason behind it? Why do youths feel compelled to sacrifice themselves?”

As for Muslim moderates, said to be ensconced in Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, its president, Ahmed Omar Hashem declared a few years ago: “There will be no stability and no end to terrorism, so long as the Palestinian people are under occupation.”

In all modern history, there has been nothing like this organized cult of death designed to achieve political aims via religious faith and reward. No roadmap, however rationally created and however sincerely presented and adopted, will bring a solution any nearer. Israel’s enemies believe they have Israel on the run and there will be no letup in this war.

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for the Washington Times.



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