Are Suicide Operations Losing their Mass Appeal?

By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, Asharq Alawsat, Tuesday 23 September 2008

Why are Suicide operations no longer a cause for admiration and awe among those that are usually indignant?

The answer is that the same propaganda weapon that the Al-Qaeda organization used has turned against it. The Al-Qaeda used to promote their explosive-laden heroes as they read their last will and testament and smiled to the cameras. After their operations multiplied, the pictures of these victims – children, women, and elderly – became popular on every road on which their vehicles passed and exploded. Without the need for a survey, we can say that only a few continue to support suicide-operations, I mean among the Muslims in whose name these operations and used and justified.

The figures shown in the latest scientific study confirm the results of previous surveys. They show a continuous and consistent drop in all the Muslim countries with the exception of Egypt where, according to the study, support for such operations rose 5% over last year. This may be related to the fact that a certain sector of the Egyptian media insist on promoting so-called martyrdom-seeking operations. It seems that they are living on an island separated from the rest of the Muslim world. It seems that they do not realize that the overwhelming majority of the victims of terrorism are civilians and Muslims as well.

The importance of measuring public opinion on suicide operations is due to the fact that these operations form the basic symbol of terrorism and they are its most sensational, fearsome, and propagandistic weapon. Thus, a drop in the rate of supporters of Bin Laden – for example in Jordan – from 60% to 19% in three years means a lot because the Al-Qaeda organization was more popular than any sports team in the country.

Al-Qaeda has spent time, efforts, and money in order to win over Muslims from over the globe as it claimed that it defended their causes, promised them victory, and constantly played on the pains of their present and their nostalgia for the past. I recall very well the difference between today and yesterday when the media propaganda of the Al-Qaeda and its supporters was prevalent. When I used to criticize its suicide-operations in its early days, I was denounced by both ignorant people and intellectuals for using a neutral word like “suicidal” and was told that it was “martyrdom-seeking”. A large number of people believed that Al-Qaeda was defending their causes and that wars justify the means. However, after some years, the truth about this organization became obvious to those that had been brainwashed.

It is not surprising that the Muslims that have experienced suicide operations became their strongest opponents and more so than those that watch reports on such operations on their television screens. Only 5% of the people of Pakistan support such operations.

The crimes began against innocent foreigners working in companies and friendly tourists. They then turned against occupying soldiers and eventually began to intensely target citizens and other Muslims simply because they were not Sunnis. They then struck against the Sunnis under absurd claims about haircutting and listening to music. Ultimately, they became mere crimes without any claims or justification intended only to kill the largest number of people in order to win the banner headlines in the next day’s newspapers. Their targets turned into markets, schools, and mosques. This is the path of traditional terrorism. It removes its mask at the end no matter how much it camouflages the justifications for its crimes with patriotism or religion.