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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

What is a martyr?

Michael Yon takes exception to the misappropriation of the terms martyr and suicide. It sometimes seems trite when the term "homicide bomber" is used, but when you really think about it that is only because of the conditioning to the term "suicide bomber" over the years. Why when someone commits two acts, one suicide and multiple homicides, is it preferable to call the perpetrator a suicide bomber? The word martyr now really means little in terms of its true definition, when it is applied to any fanatic who happens to do in the process of blowing something up (preferably children on busses)...


Particularly among fanatics, there seems to be an intentional misappropriation of meaning in the liberal misapplication of labelling words. Let's start with the BIG ones: suicide-bombers and martyrs. Suicide is a term that should evoke empathy, if not sympathy, for a lonely and despairing act. A distressed soul, harboring a crushing, agonizing lebensmude, weary of the strain of a terrestrial existence, perhaps seeking mere relief, or just an end to psychic pain, may be contemplating suicide. If this person straps a bomb to his or her chest and walks out into the solitude of the desert and detonates, they would then be properly called a "suicide bomber." But when the media reports every day on "suicide bombers," they are talking about different people.

A fanatic who straps a bomb to his chest and walks into a market crowded with women and children, then detonates a bomb that is sometimes laced with rat poison to hamper blood coagulation, is properly called a "mass murderer." There is nothing good to say about mass murderers, nor is there anything good to say about a person who encourages these murders. Calling these human bomb delivery devices "suicide bombers" is simply incorrect. They are murderers. A person or media source defending or explaining away the actions of the murderers supports them. There is no wiggle room.

Calling homicide bombers martyrs is a language offense; words are every bit as powerful as bombs, often more so. Calling murderers “martyrs” is like calling a man "customer" because he stood in line before gunning down a store clerk. There's no need to whisper. I hear the bombs every single day. Not some days, but every day. We're talking about criminals who actually volunteer and plan to deliberately murder and maim innocent people. What reservoir of feelings or sensibilities do we fear to assault by simply calling it so? When murderers describe themselves as "martyrs" it should sound to sensible ears like a rapist saying, “she was asking for it.” In other words, like the empty rationalizations of a depraved criminal.

The word martyr is derived from the word "to witness." It is used to describe a person who is killed because of a belief or principle. Given the choice to recant, martyrs chose instead to face their murderers and stand in witness to their beliefs. True martyrs do not kill themselves, but stand their ground and fight in the face of death to demonstrate the power of their convictions, sometimes dying as a result, but preferably surviving.

The only martyrs I know about in Iraq are the fathers and brothers who see a better future coming, and so they act on their beliefs and assemble outside police stations whenever recruitment notices are posted. They line up in ever increasing numbers, knowing that insurgents can also read these notices. The men stand in longer and longer lines, making ever bigger targets of themselves. Some volunteer to to earn a living. This, too, is honorable. But others take these risks because they believe that a better future is possible only if Iraqi men of principle stand up for their own values, for their country, for their families. Theses are the true martyrs, the true heroes of Iraq and of Islam. I meet these martyrs frequently. They are brave men, worthy of respect.

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Posted by Chefen | 8/17/2005 05:14:00 PM

2 Comments:

Blogger Ashley Clarkson said...

homicide bomber eh? Might have to start using that onw and then...

8/17/2005 08:29:00 PM  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

The term "mass murderer" also works well, and is traditional (to use the term loosely)

8/17/2005 10:18:00 PM  

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