Last week in Iraq, a female homicide bomber, masquerading as a Shiite religious pilgrim, murdered 20-30 pilgrims, half of them women, and injured at least 100 others. Once again, the homicide bomber stopped at a resting tent for pilgrims.
Please note: The target was not American or European “occupiers,” but Shiite Muslims. And, just as Muslims have historically attacked Jews on their most religious holy days (Yom Kippur, Passover), this possibly Sunni attack targeted Shiite religious pilgrims when they were at their weariest and most vulnerable: while they were resting along the pilgrimage route. Ironically, the Shiite’s pioneered the modern suicide/homicide bombing in the early 1980s in Lebanon with their truck bombings. The tactic has now returned to haunt them.
This homicide bomber camouflaged herself three times. As a woman, she played against type and did not nurture others; she killed them. Second, she disguised herself as a religious woman, thereby winning the instant “trust” of the other religious pilgrims. A “tent” often psychologically denotes a female-centered shelter. Veiled and burqa-wearing women are often known as “tents on the move.” Third, in a sense, this homicide bomber might unconsciously have been a rebel who wanted to literally blow her own tent/prison/home right up along with other extended “family” members.
Camouflage as a tactic characterizes Arab Muslim warfare. Both Palestinian (Fatah, Al Aqsa, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc.) and Iranian (Hezbollah) terrorists have occupied hospitals, ambulances, churches and civilian homes–all locations which allow them to claim victim status in the eyes of the foreign media as they continue to wage their unholy holy war against Israel and Lebanon.
This same way of thinking applies in the use of women as homicide bombers in the war between Sunni and Shiia Arab Muslims and between non-Arab Iranian Shiia and Arabs, both Shiia and Sunni.
Last week, my esteemed colleague, Dr. Nancy H. Kobrin and I published a letter in the New York Times in response to an op-ed piece about female homicide bombers by Lindsey O’Rourke. O’Rourke claimed that homicide bombings by women are indistinguishable from those by men; and that “foreign occupation” mainly provokes nationalist stirrings which have no other expression but that of homicide bombings. We begged to differ. O’Rourke’s article was titled: Behind the Woman Behind the Bomb. Here is our pre-edited letter.
The Veiled Male Professor Behind the Female Graduate Student
We read University of Chicago graduate student Lindsey O’Rourke’s op-ed piece with interest given that we have co-authored articles about suicide/homicide bombers. Her thesis mimics the work of the University of Chicago’s Professor Robert Pape, (who was John Mearsheimer’s teaching assistant), which blames suicide terrorism on foreign “occupations,” views nationalism as “liberatory,” and insists that there is “little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism.”
We disagree. Nationalist liberation movements often have little to do with foreign “occupations” and are endemic to the region. Shiia versus Sunni, Kurds versus Turkey and Iraq, Tamil Tigers versus the Sinhalese-controlled government of Sri Lanka, are all groups that are natives of the same region.
In addition, Muslims have historically persecuted, converted, and exiled people who were not only native to the region but whose national and religious existences long preceded the birth of Islam and the rise of Islamic imperialism. Yes, we are talking about Arab Jews and Christians as well as about other “infidel” groups such as Hindus, and Bahai. The biggest, hidden story about Middle Eastern refugees is that of Arab Jews. Now that the Arab Middle East is almost completely “judenrein,” (free of Jews), the newest hidden story is about the Muslim persecution of Christians. Such fights unto-the-death have little to do with “foreign occupations.”
In the last month, Christian Ethiopians were stoned by Muslim Ethiopians; a Saudi daughter had her tongue cut out before she was burned alive by her father because she had converted to Christianity; in Pakistan; Muslim men kidnapped two Christian girls as young as ten, forcibly converted and married them.
Al Qaeda has taken this kind of fight global and on 9/11 used multiple homicide bombers to attack Americans whom they see as “infidel Christians.”
Second, the “liberation” that suicide bombers seek has as much to do with liberation from dysfunctional family dynamics as it does with liberation from “foreign occupations.” Thus, the normalized sexual, physical, and psychological abuse of both women and children in Arab Muslim, Arab Christian, and non-Arab Muslim families remains barbaric, secretive, and pandemic and may indeed lead to normalized cultural paranoia, hyper-vigilance, scapegoating, and to honor-related violence, including honor murders.
This complicated family dynamic may lead to different motivations among male and female homicide bombers.
Like so many others who write about this subject, O’Rourke also accidentally obfuscates the matter. There is a profound resistance to describing Muslim terrorists as “Muslims.” (We are not talking about Muslims who are not terrorists). Muslim terrorists are described as “South Asians,” “militants,” “freedom fighters,” etc. In a similar vein, O’Rourke does not use the phrase that we have chosen to use: “Homicide bomber.” She writes of “suicide killers,” “suicide attackers,” and “suicide bombers.”
After writing about this subject for many years, we have decided that it is important to describe a murderer as a murderer. Thus, the problem is that of “homicide bombers.” The fact that they are also willing to die in order to kill means that this is the ultimate expression of death worship.
Unfortunately, more female security checkers in Iraq had specifically been requested. That request was denied. We suggest that this policy must immediately be changed. But, in addition, we propose an international ban on burqas for security reasons and as a human rights policy. In doing so, we join Daniel Pipes who called for such a ban in 2007.
I wrote this article together with Nancy H. Kobrin.