The distortion of a religious concept

London - published on 13 September 2004
Beyond Images Ref: 108

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Suicide bombers, who kills dozens of innocent men, women and children, are hailed in Palestinian and other predominantly Muslim societies as “martyrs” (“shaheeds”). Here a Christian Reverend, Mike Beaumont, condemns this distortion of the concept of “martyrdom”. (The letter appeared in The London Times on 9 September 2004, following the Beslan school massacre).

“There was a time when the word ‘martyr’ meant someone who preferred to suffer death rather than renounce his or her religious beliefs.

Tragically, it is in danger of being usurped by fanatical extremists to mean someone who brings about the death of others, even at the cost of their own life, in the certainty that the ‘martyrdom’ will bring immediate entry to Paradise.

Surely it is time for a clear denunciation by religious leaders of such a travesty of martyrdom, making plain that the only destiny for those who behave like the terrorists in Beslan – or New York, or Moscow, or Israel – is most certainly not Heaven but Hell.

The appalling recent events must surely make us reconsider what a right and fitting end Hell is for those who would be martyrs to their cause, but not to God’s. Let religious leaders not be afraid to say so clearly. Perhaps then the terrorist-martyrs might not be so ready to lay down their lives for their cause.”

Our comment: As this Christian cleric makes clear, suicide terrorists are not ‘martyrs’. We believe they are more fittingly seen as mass murderers whose crimes are cloaked by a distorted and inhumane ‘religious’ ideology.