Doctors & Suicide Bombers

10 Jul

From the Age

This probably isn’t what most people mean when they say their doctor is a real pain.

News of the failed terror plot in the United Kingdom has by now passed its shock value stage and entered the reflective one. Almost six years after 9/11 brought home the message that violence and terrorism knows no boundaries, we’re all getting pretty good at asking ourselves some questions.

Who did it, how did it happen, why and when was it planned? You’ll find all those details splashed across the web.

But it seems to me that we’ve asked those same questions so many times that by now they’ve acquired a bit of rote about them: a bunch of Muslims tried to blow stuff up because they hate our way of life and, with al Qaeda and the internet serving as guides, they found it all pretty easy. Case closed.

From BBCNone of those things is untrue. The doctors who carried out the bombings in Britain this past week were all Muslim; they did try to blow things up because of grievances against the West and Britain in particular; the location of one of the failed bombs (parked outside a nightclub called Tiger Tiger) echoes sentiments expressed in the now infamous surveillance tapes of the 2005 bombers who felt sinners of the club going variety, especially women, deserved to die; and police are probing just how connected these guys are to al Qaeda and just how much help they got off the internet.

But I’m still stuck on one particular question. What makes a person want, not just to kill him/herself, but to kill people whilst killing themselves? The suicide bomber. It just doesn’t compute.

A lot of people seem to think Islam is the answer. Quite apart from the issue of bigotry represented by such thinking, I find it both an inadequate and ignorant answer. Not only have suicide attacks been carried out by a wide variety of people throughout human history (including recent human history), but if Islam has the power to turn ordinary people into willing bombs then maybe we all ought to think about conversion because there’s no way in hell we can stand against something that can override the human will to such an extent that it obliterates that most basic human instinct of all: survival.

I’m no psychologist but I do have an interest (an unhealthy obsession some may term it) in finding out what makes people tick and I can’t understand this. I get why terror groups, from Chechnya to Sri Lanka, find suicide bombers a practical solution to many of the challenges thrown up by modern security measures, whether civilian or military. I understand the psychological message that is sent out by such acts.

But what makes people like Bilal Abdullah and Kafeel Ahmed, two men just a couple of years older than I, get up one morning and drive a car packed full of explosives into an airport? Force of conviction, be it political or religious? Personality type? Brainwashing? A combination of all those?

In a weird way this made me wonder about myself.

While I do not fit the profile of a suicide bomber in terms of political stability or freedom, I don’t exhibit any signs of psychopathology either. But what would I be willing to die for? In my considered opinion? Quite a number of things, actually. What would I be willing to kill for? I don’t know yet but it would depend on the situation, I think. Count me as one of those people who believe that every one of us is capable of murder depending on the circumstances.

But mass murder? I can’t think of a single thing that would make me want to go out and obliterate an entire section of a city. There is right and there is wrong: sometimes we do wrong things when we can rationalize it away. You shouldn’t cheat on your spouse but you figure what they don’t know won’t hurt them. You shouldn’t kill your fellow man but it was either him or you.

However, driving a car full of explosives into the side of a building? How do you square that away in your head, in your conscience?

Given that estimates suggest about 48% of all terror attacks are now being carried out by suicide bombers, this is a question to which we really need to find the answer. Fast.


Posted by on July 10, 2007 in News, Politics


8 responses to “Doctors & Suicide Bombers

  1. Tanay

    July 10, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    The question that you have posed is a very complicated one. What is the mental calculus that forces a person to turn into a suicide bomber. Amrita, as you have pointed out there may be a number of factors or a combination of those, and no-one knows if there are some other reasons and the how they are related.

    Human brain’s functioning and its understanding is as such a complex algorithm to crack,
    what drives someone to act and think in a particular way and like wise, that’s why Fyodor Dostoevsky said

    “While nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer, nothing is more difficult than to understand him.”

  2. amitscorpio

    July 10, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    There would be no point in saying that human mind is a very complex thing and you cannot estimate what a person do in a given situation. But here is my view to this thing….

    Have you ever had a chance to take a look to these so called inflammatory material .. the cds, the magazines, various provocative articles?? A few years ago I had a chance to take a look at one of this kind of videos. They are pretty good at what they are aimed for!! and include some brainwashing and promises to go to haven, there you have a perfect recipe for a suicide bomber!!! These innocent people being brainwashed doesn’t understand that the person they are following orders of wont go n do this thing on their own!! poor children of god!!

  3. Kokonad

    July 11, 2007 at 12:23 am

    We are looking at multiple cases of brainwashing – how can one’s brain and conscience be wiped clean and renovated with a wish to kill, destroy and devastate? The whole idea of brainwashing fails me. Doing something under duress is one thing. But doing such things out of one’s own will… well… 😦

    Strange world, this.

  4. gagan

    July 11, 2007 at 3:33 am

    This is so complicated yaar…..especially nowadays….u try to cover all the reasons and u will have ur ideas weighed upon by what u know are the ways people think on the issue even here in free speech land….just like the liberal thinkers in the islamic world are held back by orthodoxies …there is a different kind of censure in this part of the world….but it is here the same……so messy and so many stereotypes on both sides…u find ur self having to assert things constantly…ie Israel is legit. the hawks in that camp are not, foregin policy is messed up rite now..but its not a reflection of what americans are really like…failed policy of multiculturalism in the uk not cos its wrong to be tolerant..but the communatarian leaders in the reactionary left and in consertive ethnic comms are not rep of communities there…to go from tolerance to draconian laws reinforces grievances…and so on…think just making labels like evil is more of what the bush admin has been doing all this time…Harpers magazine devoted a whole issue last month to how far back America has been set back by this admin….such a large issue and so many shades to it….but it is a good way to start thinking ..why would people become so indifferent to the suffering of others

  5. Amrita

    July 11, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    Hey guys thanks for the feedback…

    yeah, the whole thing gives me a headache. The more I read the more confused I get and it definitely doesn’t help that most people are more interested in showing off the chips on their shoulder than actually thinking things through.

    I think one of the reasons why I was so affected by this incident, quite apart from the fact that it involved two Indians and maybe more, is that these guys are almost the same age as me. And I’m trying to put myself in their places and it just doesnt work for me. and I’m pretty good at putting myself in other people’s shoes.

    Brainwashing definitely plays into this. Just reading normal history books would make me fume as a child when I read about colonial atrocities and so on – so I can imagine what prolonged and continuous immersion would do to a person. Perhaps destroy that ability to differentiate between historical wrongs and the actual people today, for instance. But suicide bombers have an extra element and I’ll be damned if i know what it is.

    And when I look up more information I’m struck by how little of it exists. we know what to look for in serial killers, pyromaniacs, etc but have very little clue about suicide bombers. And yet, this is fastest growing threat to our security worldwide.

  6. khamkhwa

    July 12, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Looks like you are on the way to becoming rich and famous, hence, the continued silence. i shudder to think what will you do when you really become rich and famous?

    a poor friend

  7. Amrita

    July 12, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    Hey hey Khammy, how you been 😀

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