Suicide Bombings in Lebanon: My opinion

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh

Few hours before a suicide bomber blew himself up in a minibus in Southern Beirut yesterday afternoon, I was thinking of Marcus Aurelius famous quote “Do every act of your life as if it were your last” while drawing a ‘local dehumanized human bomb’, as the images of previous blasts were shown on TV. We have been living in a war context since the so-called ‘Lebanese Independence’ of the 1940s, and violence has become our daily bread. Still, suicide bombing is particularly shocking on account of its indiscriminate nature, killing or injuring anyone within range of the explosion, and because of the evident willingness of the bombers to die by their own hands. Furthermore, suicide bombing instills fear because it requires little expertise and few resources beyond a bomb and someone willing to carry it – much more cost-effective than other tactics -, and seems almost impossible for security forces to prevent. In other words, suicide bombing opens a new chapter in the Lebanese war, a ‘bloody grey zone’ chapter where life in itself becomes dangerous, because it carries the possibility of an ‘anytime/ anyplace horrific death with no place to hide’.

If we were living in a country where the State is not dismembered nor corrupted and where unity in diversity is the motto of its people, effective measures would have been taken to prevent such a chapter, ranging from aggressive law enforcement and counterterrorist missions against cells, organizations and leaders, to tackling issues of political instability, social injustice, sectarianism, lack of freedom, poverty and economic crisis. But how can anyone stop an ideologically-driven self-destructing human being who has already forsaken everything for his or her cause while attempting to escape personal crises in a psychologically/physically war-torn country where at least two-third of its population is mentally sick due to decades of piling up traumas and wounded memories? How can anyone stop believers in an afterlife of delights when they live in an unjust and chaotic environment?

Jokes about al-houriyyat and sexual pleasures in paradise, filling Lebanese Facebook pages and other social media platforms, will not stop this madness, nor adopting the ostrich strategy (ps: The Ostrich Strategy is named after the myth that an ostrich, when in danger, will bury its head in the sand. For purposes of this post, I am using the ostrich myth as the basis for what has become a popular, though most ineffective, strategy in business, government, and academia for avoiding difficult challenges. But in fact, ostriches run away as fast as possible when confronted with danger). Along with hyper-mediatization of suicide bombing, its banalization (by becoming ‘accustomed to’) and/or denial of its existence contribute to fueling its causes, effects and longevity.

As long as most Lebanese do not see suicide bombing as the product of multiple factors; as long as they are not willing to face the chaos they are living in by first recognizing their responsibility in its existence (8 and 14 of March, and independent included) along with the foreign (regional/international) powers’, and second trying to find a common ground to build a pluralistic system; as long as the relations between religions and politics are ill-managed; as long as Lebanese do not have a national memory-history-identity to transmit to the younger generations; as long as human beings are used by others as “living tools” – referring to Aristotle thought of human slaves -, exploited at all levels; as long many members of our society feel threatened thus willing to support desperate measures; as long as self-sacrifice is manipulated and twisted forms of martyrdom are embraced; as long as Lebanese do not create a Culture of Healing and a new path towards peace (the impacts of trauma are difficult to heal, but if ignored, traumatic events will consistently be repeated. The insidious characteristics of trauma symptoms are hooked into the original cycle in such a way that they are also self-perpetuating). … Jihadis will continue to use suicide bombing for its tactical benefits regardless of whether or not it helps them politically, Lebanese will be forced to continue the cycle of trauma and the new generations will mature with much greater familiarity and ‘comfort’ with the ways of violence than those of harmony, cooperation and conviviality… War will prevail!

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  1. Je suis tout à fait d’accord sur le besoin d’être conscients du fait que nous soyions tous et toutes responsables de ce qui nous arrive. Assez de responsabiliser ‘autrui’. Nous avons aussi une part de responsabilité dans la guerre, tout comme dans la construction de la paix.

  2. Suicide bombers are sick people. they are brainwashed since their childhood. the only solution is to get rid of all their organizations

  3. I honestly feel that the life we have nowadays in Lebanon is not a quality life. We are just trying to survive, trapped like rats. It is an awful feeling and situation. Feeling helpless… sorry

  4. Thank you Dr for this fine post! Always following your blog. What about the Islamic perception of suicide bombing? Why aren’t there enough religious leaders saying out loud that Islam is against suicide and murder?

  5. I also think the road to peace is arduous and long. Maybe not before many generations. This one is already damaged.

  6. It is apparent that the understanding of Jihād as a concept is dismally blurred by the ongoing rhetoric employed by financially-empowered Islamist activists and extremist scholars. Disregarding centuries of classical scholarship, using a simplistic, literal approach to the Qur’ān and holy traditions of the Prophet, they have built a convincing picture of Jihād as militant, continuing warfare between the Muslims and non-Muslims; a situation they contend will maintain until the end of time.
    The only way to dispel the false notions of Jihād put forth by the extremists, who are massively funded by external sources, is an equally strong effort put forth by Muslim governments in re-education of their populations, in particular the youth, with a correct understanding of this term. Such efforts must be sustained and ongoing and must have the support of modern, moderate Muslim scholars in each nation.
    We propose the following recommendations for each nation engaging in these re-education efforts:
    1) follow-on discussions to create a response to the current abuse of the term Jihād;
    2) development and staging of public presentations to educate the public based on the information and discussions in (1);
    3) publish literature detailing the accurate definition of Jihād and distributing this literature in large quantities;
    4) encourage modern, moderate scholars to stand up and speak up in opposition to the extremists;
    5) Create a national podium for modern, moderate scholars; 
    6) Publish in public media the proceedings of the above-mentioned debates and discussions by modern, moderate scholars.

    1. Thank you Mehmet. There are indeed diverse interpretations of the Sacred Scriptures, leading inevitably to the manipulation of verses for specific political interests.
      Numerous fatwas condemning terrorism have been released by scholars around the world since 9/11, but it’s true that in Lebanon, condemnations are shy and punctual.
      I suggest here to read Pakistani-born Shaikh Dr Tahir ul-Qadri. Within the British Pakistani community Shaikh Dr Qadri – and his grassroots organisation Minhaj-ul Quran – is well known and respected. He is a “shaikh ul-Islam”, one of the highest positions in Islamic jurisprudence. According to Dr Qadri, suicide bombings are absolutely against the teachings of Islam.

  7. Thank you for your comments and support!
    To Amalia Farah: Suicide bombings are those that involve the deliberate death of the perpetrator (suicide attack). We’re not just talking about a reckless charge in battle (suicidal attack).
    We should be careful when we use the word ‘suicide’. For one thing it can imply a degree of choice which may not always exist. There are frequently reports of vulnerable people like children or the mentally ill, being coerced or manipulated into carrying out attacks, or individuals forced into suicide attacks in order to protect their families from mass murder (refer to the Afghan case). Detailed and extensive analyses of suicide bombers (and their profiles) in Lebanon are not yet available.

  8. Thank you Dr!
    Another question, if you don’t mind answering please: we often hear on local TVs the word ‘kamikaze’ to describe suicide bombers in Lebanon (and even in Syria and Iraq) – mostly on TV political shows. Is it an accurate description?

    1. The Tokkotai, meaning ‘special attack unit’, and popularly referred to as Kamikaze in Japan during the Second World War, consisted of planes and boats loaded with bombs and instructed to crash into naval targets.The pilots who flew these planes were volunteers, recruited from university students or young men who were newly conscripted. Unlike most modern suicide bombings, the Tokkotai attacks were directed exclusively at military targets. Therefore, i don’t think the proper word to use here is Kamikaze.

  9. Islam is a religion of peace and safety that champions love and harmony in society. According to Islamic teachings, only such a person will be called a Muslim at whose hands the lives and properties of all the innocent Muslims and non-Muslims remain safe and unhurt. The sanctity of human life and its protection occupies fundamental place in the Islamic law. Taking anyone’s life for nothing and killing him is an act forbidden and unlawful. Rather, in some cases, it amounts to infidelity. These days, the terrorists, in a vain attempt to impose their own ideas and beliefs and eliminate their opponents from the surface of the earth, killing innocent people ruthlessly and indiscriminately everywhere in Mosques, Bazaars, governmental offices and other public places are in fact committing manifest infidelity. They are warned of humiliating torment in this world and in the hereafter. Terrorism, in its very essence, is an act that symbolizes infidelity and rejection of what Islam stands for. When the forbidden element of suicide is added to it, its severity and lethality becomes even graver. Scores of Quranic verses and Prophetic traditions have proved that massacre of Muslims and terrorism is unlawful in Islam; rather, they are blasphemous acts. That has always been the edict unanimously held by all the scholars that have passed in the 1400 year Islamic history, including all the eminent Imams of Tafseer and Hadith and authorities on logic and jurisprudence. Islam has kept the door of negotiation and discussion open to convince by reasoning, instead of taking up arms to declare the others’ standpoint wrong, and enforce one’s own opinion. Only the victims of ignorance, jealousy and malice go for militancy. Islam declares them rebels. They will abide in Hell.

  10. The people responsible for planning and carrying out suicide bombings that deliberately target civilians are guilty of crimes against humanity and should be brought to justice.

  11. Armed conflicts often involve discrepancies of power between adversaries. Allowing those discrepancies to justify attacking civilians would create an immense loophole in the protections of international humanitarian law.

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