My Life Is a Weapon: A Modern History of Suicide Bombing

By Aboul-Enein, Youssef | Infantry, September/October 2005 | Go to article overview

My Life Is a Weapon: A Modern History of Suicide Bombing


Aboul-Enein, Youssef, Infantry


My Life is a Weapon: A Modern History of Suicide Bombing. By Christoph Renter translated by Helena Ragg-Kirkby. Princeton University Press, New Jersey. 179 pages, 2004. Reviewed by Lieutenant Commander Youssef Aboul-Enein, MSC, USN.

Christoph Reuter is an international correspondent for the German magazine Stern. He spent eight years moving among the society that produced suicide brigades for the Iran-Iraq War of the '80s. He reported and interviewed whole communities from Lebanon's Hizballah and Palestinian militants to Sri Lankan Tamils, investigating the culture of martyrdom. Originally published in German as Mein Leben ist eine Waffe, it offers insights into the nuances of the justification and conditioning of suicide missions. The book opens by challenging the assumption that suicide bombers fit into neat typical profiles, and the book draws examples of rich and poor, secular and religious, Marxist or jihadist, as well as female and male.

Reuter quotes Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law and cousin Ali Ibn Abi Talib, who rose to become the fourth rightly guided caliph after Muhammad's death, respected Sunnis and revered by Shiites who said: "The Quran (Islamic Book of Divine Revelation) is but ink and paper, it does not speak for itself. Instead, it is human beings who give effect to it according to their limited personal judgments and opinions." This is a significant statement for the book highlights that the Quran, if followed literally, contains no theological or judicial system except for 200 clear rules of conduct. Therefore the Quran represents the first building block to an interpretive form of moral and social life. This means that particular aspects of Islam can justify democracy or it can justify outright war against the west. Chapter 1 also argues that Shiite Islam with its core cult of martyrdom, self-sacrifice and being the underdog in Islamic history makes it well suited for war and the author uses Chapter 2 a detailed discussion of the ease by which Ayatollah Khomeini created mass suicide battalions to throw at Iraqi forces.

What is revealing are the methods the Iranian Revolutionary Guards used to basically collect children indiscriminately from schools, and with little training send them to the front.

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