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Does Oppression Cause Suicide Bombing?

Does Oppression Cause Suicide Bombing?

Some overprivileged Muslims support a culture of death, while impoverished Tibetans celebrate life


As suicide bombings increase in Iraq, in Saudi Arabia, and in Israel, more and more people have come to believe that this tactic is a result of desperation. They see a direct link between oppression, occupation, poverty, and humiliation on the one hand, and a willingness to blow oneself up for the cause on the other hand. It follows from this premise that the obvious remedy for suicide bombing is to address its root cause -- namely, our oppression of the terrorists.

But the underlying premise is demonstrably false: There is no such link as a matter of fact or history. Suicide bombing is a tactic that is selected by privileged, educated, and wealthy elitists because it has proven successful.

Moreover, even some of the suicide bombers themselves defy the stereotype of the impoverished victims of occupation driven to desperate measures by American or Israeli oppression. Remember the 9/11 bombers, several of whom were university students and none of whom were oppressed by the US. They were dispatched by a Saudi millionaire named Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden has now become the hero of many other upper-class Saudis who are volunteering to become shahids (martyrs) in Iraq, Israel, and other parts of the globe.

Majid al-Enezi, a Saudi student training to become a computer technician, recently changed career plans and decided to become a martyr; he crossed over into Iraq, where he died. His brother Abdullah celebrated that decision. "People are calling all the time to congratulate us, crying from happiness and envy. There are many young men who wish they could cross over into Iraq, but they can't. Thank God he was able to."

These rich kids glorify the culture of suicide, even in distant places. As Tufful al-Oqbi, a student at the elite King Saud University, described this situation, young people are wearing T-shirts with bin Laden's picture on them just the way people used to wear pictures of Che Guevara, the Cuban revolutionary. According to a recent news account, wealthy women students sport Osama bin Laden T-shirts under their enveloping abayas to show their approval for his calls to resist the United States.

Why do these overprivileged and well-educated young men and women support this culture of death, while impoverished and oppressed Tibetans continue to celebrate life despite their occupation by China for half a century?

Why have other oppressed people throughout history not resorted to suicide bombings and terrorism? The answer lies in differences among the elite leadership of various groups and causes. The leaders of Islamic radical causes, especially the Wahhabis, advocate and incite suicide terrorism, while the leaders of other causes advocate different means.

Recall Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., whose people were truly oppressed but who advocated non-violent means of resistance. It is the leaders who send suicide bombers to blow themselves up. No suicide bomber ever sent himself to be blown up.

The bombers accept death because they have been incited into a frenzy of hatred by imams preaching "Kill the infidels." Sheikh Muhammad Sayed Tantawi, the leading Islamic scholar at the elite Al-Azhar University in Cairo (which is not occupied), has declared that martyrdom operations - which means suicide bombings -- are the highest form of jihad and an Islamic commandment.

Even more mainstream role models, such as Yasser Arafat's wife, who lives in a multimillion-dollar residence in Paris, has said that if she had a son, she would want him to become a suicide bomber because there is no greater honor than to become a martyr.

The blame lies squarely at the feet of the elitists who exploit these young children, use them, and eventually kill them.

Young children, some as young as 12 and 13, are incited and seduced into strapping bombs around themselves by these older and better-educated elitist leaders. The children are promised virgins in heaven, praise and money for their families here on Earth, and posters portraying them as rock stars. It is an irresistible combination for some, and the blame lies squarely at the feet of the elitists who exploit them, use them, and eventually kill them.

There is absolutely no evidence to support the claim of a direct relationship between occupation and suicide bombing. If anything, occupation makes it more difficult to launch successful terrorist attacks. This is not to argue for occupation; it is to separate the arguments regarding occupation from the claim that it is the fact of occupation, and the oppression it brings, that causes suicide bombing.

Indeed, were Israel to end its occupation of Gaza and most of the West Bank (as I have long believed it should), it is likely that terrorism would actually increase as terrorist commanders secure more freedom to plan and implement terrorist actions. The same might well be true in Iraq, were the United States to pick up and run.

The time has come to address the real root cause of suicide bombing: elitist incitement by certain religious and political leaders who are creating a culture of death and exploiting the ambiguous teachings of an important religion.

Abu Hamza -- the cleric who tutored Richard Reid, the convicted shoe bomber -- recently urged a large crowd to embrace death. Islamic young people are in love with death, claim some influential imams; but it is these leaders who are arranging the marriages between the children and the bomb belts.

Perhaps, now that suicide bombers have attacked Saudi Arabia, responsible Islamic leaders will better understand that it is their people who will be the ultimate victims of this tactically imposed culture of death.

May 29, 2004

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 9

(9) David M. Frost, June 8, 2004 12:00 AM

No innocents?

Mr. Puglisi:
You wrote that "The reason this whole situation is a problem is because there are no innocents, and it disingenous to suggest there are."

Recently, as you are no doubt aware, a couple of "martyrs" shot a pregnant women and her young daughters at point blank range, and videotaped their adventure. I'm curious-- what would the little girls in question have had to do in order to qualify as "innocents" in your book?

(8) ARI L, June 6, 2004 12:00 AM

Dear Al Puglisi

Have you seen the documentary, Relentless? If not, you owe it to yourself to see the other side of the story. Also, Dershowitz doesn't claim the homicide bombers are all from wealthy families. He doesn't state percentages, but neither does the footage you've seen.

(7) Jose Nigrin, June 4, 2004 12:00 AM

Suicide bombers

The existence and explotation, of suicide bombers, is the ultimate desperate attempt, of the Palestinians, for their innability to cope with the Jewish State prescence.

(6) al puglisi, June 2, 2004 12:00 AM


One of the best ways to promulgate a lie is to include enough truth to make it believable. Dr. Dershowitz does this here. While it is true that some of the suicide bombers are from wealthy families, it does not follow necessarily that they all are. Perhaps this argument might fly with some, but no longer with me. I have seen the video footage of what is happening on the west bank, and on the gaza strip, video after video of people living in filth and dirt and in fear for their lives daily. I have seen footage of children gunned down in the streets by bullets indiscriminately sprayed about by the Israeli army. The Brits are currently investigating the murder of an English journalist, gunned down under a white flag by the Israeli army, ostensibly because he was a journalist who was filming all that I have described. The reason this whole situation is a problem is because there are no innocents, and it disingenous to suggest there are.

(5) Richard Wansbrough, June 1, 2004 12:00 AM

Understanding Suicide Bombing

Thanks for expanding my knowlege of this crime. I have found it difficult to believe the promised rewards of Heaven and their concept.
It is too bad that wars are fought over religion, dictators and a marriod of other things.
I just hope and pray that GOD will soon put a stop to this.
Richard Wansbrough

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