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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

The Myth of Martyrdom

Dar, the Pulwama suicide bomber, rammed his car, detonated an IED and mercilessly killed 40 innocent CRPF Jawans. He, himself claimed through his video that he will die a martyr’s death and will be in heaven.

Besides JeM, his Father and his uncle also claimed that he got martyred. Everyone around the bomber wanted to claim his martyrhood.

The terror tanzim’s commemoration of martyrdom through use of rituals, ceremonies and grand gala funerals is intended towards creating a cult of veneration around successful suicide attackers. Dar’s funeral too was attended by thousands of people.

JeM managed to incite Kashmiris even from faraway places to visit Dar’s house to offer condolences for his ‘martyrdom’. It was also arranged to string up a JeM flag in the compound of Dar’s house. They were able to successfully propagate Dar’s ‘martyrdom’ for their cause and depict his life and death in a way that suited them because by that time Dar was as dead as a dodo, thus incapable of countering posthumous propaganda and posited qualities or intentions.

Martyrdom claims have been a norm in cases of Islamist Suicide bombers. Common claims from Suicidal Islamist militants make one ask some tough questions.

A bearded Muslim youth, devoid of any hope of survival, having sole intention of suicide and bloodbath reaches his objective and succeeds in massacring forty soldiers, in an instant. Terrorist sympathizers patronize him as a “martyr” while it was illustrated in India that a person inspired by Islamic fundamentalism carried out suicide attack on CRPF Convoy.

My question is; should Indian scholars consider him a mentally stable individual?

There is widespread confusion about the psyche of Islamic suicide bombers, as people are still undecided whether they are sacrificing themselves for the sake of extremist ideology or did they actually intend to die? Envisaging upon this, one has come to a whole new definition of their alleged “martyrdom” which could probably result in reduction in number of suicide attackers.

Terror sympathizers find no differentiation between the mindsets of the CRPF Jawans who died securing their motherland and the suicide bomber: both the sides were willing to risk and give away their lives in the line of their perceived duties. Pakistan’s Deep State and the pawns, Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed, find this approach favorable, and will continue to use it for glorification, in the wake of a new wave of suicide bombers.

Pulwama bomber has been painted as a violent but mentally normal young man. Just because he drove a car and pushed a deadly button, this act doesn’t prove his sanity. No sane human could carry out such an act of bloodshed. His father, friends, and other family members refer to him as a responsible offspring. But we need to rationalize that somewhere down the line, an individual suffering from depression, guilt, loneliness, resentment and helplessness had decided to end his life, therefore as a Muslim he only had a few options left because suicide is considered forbidden in Islam.

  • Quran refers suicide as (4:29) as qatl-al-nafs (self-killing) and intihār (slitting of the throat). The Quran contains verses where the term qatl—al-nafs appears. The Prophetic teachings forbid suicide and condemn the perpetrator to eternal retribution in the form of never-ending repetitions of the same act and the anguish of the mode of suicide. The Prophetic traditions not only prohibit suicide but also explicitly deter Muslims from wishing for death. Suicide is defined as a sin in the Quran and suicide victims enter Hell, while martyrs enter Paradise directly. As per the holy texts, an individual who has killed himself doesn’t even get the Janaza (funeral prayer) and burial of a Muslim. Many Muslim cemeteries are not allowing burial of those who have died by suicide.

Let me put here some of the universally considered signs of suicidal behavior which were also found in Kashmiri Suicide Bombers:

  • Sudden changes in personal hygiene, appearance, weight, eating patterns and sleeping habits.
  • Behavioral signs like suicide attempts, self-harm, withdrawal symptoms from friends and family and recklessness.
  • Sudden loss of interest in life, feelings of loneliness and continued self pity.
  • Seeking self Isolation for prolonged periods as the suicidal person feels that nobody understands his pain.

Suicide is left locked behind the doors for Muslims which doesn’t help in breaking down the barriers with those suffering or unlocking an understanding that suicide is a serious problem. There have been numerous risk factors described for suicide including the above. Research has found that nearly all completed suicides are among individuals with a mental illness.

There is tiny little research on suicide among Muslims because India does not report suicides based on the religion of the deceased. Muslim countries don’t report deaths by suicide to the World Health Organization (WHO). There are zero available Statistics on the Muslim suicide rate: To date, no Muslim suicide rate has been determined. Suicide has been poorly studied in Islamic societies, and there are religious sanctions against suicide in Islam. Suicide is illegal in several Islamic countries. The stigma of suicide together with related cultural and religious factors leads to under-reporting of cases.

On a rather sad note, martyrdom has provided Islamist suicide bombers a convincing loophole that even after killing oneself, he will go to heaven instead of hell. Adil detonated a car bomb, thus committed suicide. On the sidelines of it, he succeeded in murdering 40 innocent security men.

The last video trick of terror tanzims is for disguising such individual’s suicidal motives. A stake at claim that, they did not yearn for death, but rather were more inclined towards killing the enemy than they do about their own survival.

Such implication of the urge to stop Islamic suicide bombers, lays in exposing their suicidal intentions to achieve forever closure of the “martyrdom” loophole. Suicide attackers are seen as mentally healthy revolutionaries. Unless, we begin to see suicide attackers in their actuality as frustrated, depressed, traumatized, and mentally ill individuals, terrorist attacks from “paradise seekers” will not stop

So the big question remains; should the suicide attacker be considered a mentally stable individual?

The tales of many suicide attackers reveal that despite of the tall claims by their relatives and terror tanzims, their depression and suicidal motives could not remain hidden.

Suicide attacker Case – 1: Yasmeena Akhtar

Yasmeena Akhter has been claimed as a suicide bomber and a martyr by JeM.

Yasmeena’s father had a love-hate relationship with the terrorists that resulted in him being jailed and his family living an uneasy, anxiety-filled life. Yasmeena Akhtar got married to a runaway terrorist namely Adnan in 2004, September. She corroborated with him in smuggling weapons and ammunitions. In 2004, December, within a few months from their marriage, warlike weapons were caught from a hideout inside their home in a Police SOG raid, Adnan was arrested and Yasmeena was grilled for hours. She left her home that evening, never to return.

Inspector Manzoor Lone, head of counter-terrorism operations in her village, termed Yasmeena as lovelorn rather than an ideology driven terrorist. A woman got implicated in terror related activities, faced social boycott and was anxious about prosecution from the security agencies that drove her to commit suicide. Yasmeena’s mother said, “A Martyr’s death was the only honorable option my daughter had.”

As per the opinion of renowned psychiatrist and Director Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience, Srinagar Dr. Mushtaq Margoob, “Youth in the age group of 20-25 years is found to be more inclined towards suicide.” In the case of Yasmeena he opines that “Yasmeena left her home and chose to slog, runaway life of a militant which could imply, continued state of panic upon one’s psyche. Yasmeena lacked paternal affection in her childhood years as her father was in Jail. She would have had a strong emotional bond with her husband. His arrest once again threw her into destitute, she was bound to become suicidal.”

One day, Yasmeena donned a suicide belt and blew herself up. JeM claimed, Yasmeena Akhtar as their first “woman Fidayeen” martyr and claimed major casualties in the suicide attack. In fact, no one except Yasmeena was killed in the blast.

The conclusion derived from the memories of Yasmeena’s mother and the police officer gets concurred with the opinion of the psychiatrist that ‘Yasmeena’ a depressed woman, who chose to commit suicide, when she ran out of options, was neither a Fidayeen nor a Martyr.

Come 2019 Pulwama attack and Dr. Margoob’s opinion on suicide bombers changes drastically as he states in an interview that “Suicide bombers are psychologically normal but indoctrinated towards martyrdom and not suicide, who attack being fully aware of their death.”

No suicide-bomber has lived to tell his tale still a renowned psychiatrist from the valley falls prey to the Martyr myth. Glorification of Jihad is the root cause behind the success of Jihadists. 

The engraving on Yasmeena’s tombstone pays a fitting tribute to her, “This generous soil sheltered me, after the suspicions of a heartless world.”

Fidayeen Case-2: Fardeen Khanday

16-year-old Fardeen Ahmed Khanday, was son of a serving police official. In his last video message Fardeen, seated between three assault rifles and a huge cache of arms and ammunition including grenades said, “By the time this video reaches you, I will be a new guest in heaven, inshallah.”

Fardeen’s mother Vazeera says, her son was an introvert, who never shared his feelings with his near and dear ones. Aqib Maulvi, a recently killed Hizbul Mujahiddeen terrorist, was the Quran Ustad of Fardeen. Aqib’s death changed Fardeen as a person. He would now often talk about Hell and paradise and that “Worldly life is nothing.”

Maulvi Aqib’s death drew Fardeen towards depression; he sought solace from Noor Mohammad Tantray, the Notorious JeM indoctrinator. The Police had received inputs that Fardeen was inclined towards suicide missions.

Fidayeen Case-3 -Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed

Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed, the Sri Lanka Bomber’s martyrhood was claimed by the Islamic State of Syria and Levant.

Sri Lanka Suicide Bomber Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed’s sister Samsul Hidaya said “Mohamed became increasingly withdrawn and intense as he descended into extremism. He became deeply, deeply religious while he was in Australia and came home a different person, he turn out to be radicalised abroad and ended up ‘really angry and totally crazy’”. She added: “He had a long beard and had lost his sense of humour. He became serious and withdrawn and would not even smile at anyone he didn’t know, let alone laugh.”

Fidayeen Case – 4: Wafa Al Biss

Wafa Al Biss – She said about her suicide bombing attempt: “This is an honourable thing and I would be a suicide bomber three times over if I could.”

Wafa-Al-Biss was arrested in 2004 and sentenced to 12 years in prison after she attempted to blow herself up at an Israeli checkpoint. For the failed attempt, Al Biss and her parents reiterate the same politico-religious reasons.

It came out later on that Wafa-Al-Biss had suffered from psychological problems all her life and had twice attempted to commit suicide.

Fidayeen Case-5:

Mohammad Atta: Mohammad Atta, the ringleader of 9/11 attack on world trade center twin towers had written in his suicide note that “The god has prepared an everlasting paradise for the martyrs. I would love to be martyred in Allah’s Cause and then get resurrected and then get martyred.”

Mohammad Atta struggled with social isolation, depression, guilt, shame and hopelessness for years. He had an isolated, neglected childhood and was pathologically ashamed of any sexual expression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health there are 11 signs, 11 traits and symptoms for a man being depressed; Mohammad Atta exhibited eight of them.”  

Fidayeen Case-6: Afaq Ahmed Shah:

Afaq Ahmed Shah – JeM claimed, “He was their fidayeen.” His mother claimed, “My son got martyred.”

Afaq Ahmed Shah, 17 year old Badami bag cantonment bomber, dreamt of becoming a doctor. But, he got depressed as he could not clear his standard twelve examinations even after two attempts. He sought solace in religion, but the Religious zealots radicalised him and turned him into a living bomb. Afaq’s childhood was marred by revolt, repression, and depression. Afaq’s father termed him as a shy and introvert kid, who preferred the solace of his room to the chatter of his friends. His behaviour had changed when he started spending nights in the local mosque next door. Afaq would read aloud Quran and cry.

The last released videos of these attackers are nothing but gobbledygook pieces of propaganda. From saying things about women’s place in Islam, citing examples from Quran and Hadees, blah.. Blah.. 20 year olds giving sermons on religion and global politics! Give me a break! These suicidal attackers had all the reasons to lie to control their post death public repute through the lip service to be remembered as heroic martyrs than suicidal cowards.

As the living, starting from parents, relatives to the terror tanzims, all are busy spreading the myth of martyrdom, poignant voices of dead suicide attackers seem louder and truer than that of the living liars.

In between all the brouhahas around the alleged martyrdom, the truth about the guilt, depression, melancholy and misery of the suicide attacker has still rode the apologue subtly and came out triumphant. The matter of fact remains that the nitty-gritty has completely been ignored by the experts, agencies and subsequent governments.

A suicide bomber dispatcher namely Mahmud confessed during an interview that he used to tell the recruiter to look for people who are frustrated, hurt, socially dispensable, desperate and in deep agony.

The ‘cult of martyrdom’ poses a major threat to democracies worldwide.

Depression in Kashmir – some numbers

According to the Kashmir Mental Health survey 2015 carried out by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)(Doctors without borders), India, University of Kashmir and the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS), Srinagar, 1.8 million adults (45% of the adult populace) in the Kashmir valley are experiencing symptoms of mental distress, with 415,000 meeting the diagnostic criteria for major depression. The top most commonly reported coping strategy was that of ‘Turning to religion/Religiosity’ followed by the use of ‘Acceptance’.

Suicide has remained a taboo subject for the Muslim community; as most of the suicide deaths remain ‘not reported’. In the year 2007, the suicide rate in Kashmir was projected at up to 20 per one Lakh people, which was double the all-India average.

That clearly points toward the suicidal leanings of Kashmiri terrorists.

The driving urge to achieve significance, heroism and martyrdom push the terrorists to the brink. Take for example the case of Yasmeena; a woman, who was separated from her terrorist husband and socially boycotted in traditional Kashmiri society, she suffered a tremendous amount of humiliation. To compensate for that she did something that is held in extremely high regard by her community: self-sacrifice for the sake of the community.

Her sobbing mother’s words: “She never spoke about wanting to fight or becoming a martyr. A martyr’s death was the only honourable option for my daughter. Thousands came here to congratulate me on her martyrdom.”

Fardeen’s mother Vazeera said, her son was an introvert, who never shared his inner-feelings with his near and dear ones. Aqib Maulvi, a recently killed Hizbul Mujahiddeen terrorist, was the Quran Ustad of Fardeen. Aqib’s death changed Fardeen as a person. He would now often talk about Hell and paradise and that “Worldly life is nothing.”

Maulvi Aqib’s death drew Fardeen towards depression; he sought solace from Noor Mohammad Tantray, the Notorious JeM indoctrinator. The Police had received inputs that Fardeen was inclined towards suicide missions.

Sources and references

[1] https://www.dhakatribune.com/world/south-asia/2019/02/15/by-the-time-this-video-reaches-you-i-ll-be-in-heaven-the-teen-behind-kashmir-s-deadliest-attack

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/aug/05/pakistan.weekend7

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/aug/05/pakistan.weekend7

[1] https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/portrait-of-a-suicide-bomber/214191

[1] https://www.indiatoday.in/india/video/pulwama-terror-attack-our-attacks-wont-end-pledges-16-year-old-fidayeen-in-video-1120040-2018-01-01

[1] http://www.democracynewslive.com/leadstory/a-friends-death-turned-fardeen-from-kashmir-a-class-10th-student-into-a-suicide-bomber-446964

[1] https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/no-idea-what-influenced-teenage-suicide-attacker-says-fidayeen-s-family/story-lv7X in4hVUUPKejTyFwE9vAM.html

[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/04/24/abdul-lathief-jameel-mohamed-sri-lanka-suicide-bomber/

[1] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6958575/Innocent-face-British-educated-boy-turned-Sri-Lanka-suicide-bomber.html

[1] https://www.jpost.com/Blogs/The-Warped-Mirror/The-Palestine-of-Wafa-al-Biss-366590

[1] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2051382/Palestinian-Wafa-al-Biss-freed-Gilad-Shalit-deal-vows-sacrifice-life.html

[1] https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21929240-200-martyr-myth-inside-the-minds-of-suicide-bombers/

[1] https://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=79168&page=1


[1] This Unquiet Land – Stories from India’s fault lines – By Barkha Dutt – Page No. 141

[1] Indian Mujahiddin – The Enemy Within – By Shishir Gupta – Page No. 240

[1] https://www.msfindia.in/sites/default/files/2016-10/kashmir_mental_health_survey_report_2015_for_web.pdf

[1] http://archive.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2010/08/14/amid_conflict_kashmir_man_tries_suicide_13_times/

Manan Bhatt
Manan Bhatt
Manan Bhatt is a Veteran of the Indian Navy. He has served onboard Frigates & Corvettes with 15 years of service under his belt, including service during Operation Talwar (Kargil War) and Operation Parakram also assignments at the Integrated Headquarters of Defence and DRDO.

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