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     Volume 4 Issue 13 | September 17, 2004 |

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Straight Talk

The End of Innocence

Nadia Kabir Barb

I wonder what goes through the mind of a suicide bomber just before he presses the detonator and blows up a group of innocent people. Does he or she really believe that any cause is great enough to justify taking the life of even one human being? Do they realise the tide of grief they leave in the wake of their handiwork? If they did, would they even care? It would be highly inconvenient to develop a conscience just before slaughtering a group of people who have no idea who you are and may never have heard of the cause you are fighting for. We have heard of the Japanese Kamikaze (kamikaze meaning divine wind) pilots during the Second World War flying their planes into American warships destroying both the target and losing their lives in the process. Although not a doctrinal belief, there was a popular notion that Kamikaze pilots would earn a free trip to heaven by dying for their country and emperor. Terrorism, hostage taking, suicide attacks as carried out by the Kamikaze pilots are not necessarily a new phenomenon. However, now we have the sudden emergence of a new breed of suicide bombers. The thought process might have been similar, i.e., dying for a cause, attaining greater glory, etc., but the difference is that Kamikaze pilots did not target civilians and previously the number of hostages taken and people killed did not spiral into the hundreds or thousands.

Prior to September, 2004, how many people were aware of a place in Russia called Beslan? It will now forever be remembered for its horrific ordeal and massacre of over 350 people, most of them children. The militants took over 1000 hostages in a school in North Ossetia. The hostages were allowed no food and water during their ordeal. In fact some of the children had to resort to drinking their own urine. On the last day of the siege, after an explosion was heard inside the school, Russian troops stormed the school and bloody gun battle ensued. Not only were the family and friends of the hostages waiting outside the school with bated breath but so was the whole world. Watching the survivors being carried out blood-stained and the children almost naked was heart rending. It could have been our children, it could have just as easily been us. The lists on the wall with the names of the dead and the number of people still not identified or missing are events that are never going to be erased from the minds of those who lived through it and the images beamed to our television sets will stay with us for a long time. To lose a loved one is painful enough but to lose them in such a gruesome way is unthinkable. How could the militants look upon the people they held captive, especially the children, and not feel a shred of compassion? How could they look into the eyes of their innocent victims and not falter even once? How inhumane does one have to be to not even allow food and water to be sent to the hostages? It is one thing to say you would die for something but it is a totally different matter to kill for it.

Is nowhere sacred or safe anymore? I think the simple answer to that would have to be "No". Whether you talk about your place of work, train station, shopping centre, theatre, cinema hall, or as we have witnessed even schools, are all targets for terrorists. How many places can you make safe? There are always going to be vulnerable areas that are prime targets for terrorist activities. The threat of violence is growing ever closer to home. In fact it is not a threat anymore but a reality. The assassination attempt on Sheikh Hasina and the subsequent deaths that resulted from the grenade attacks in Dhaka last month was another reminder that these acts of violence do not just occur on television and countries far removed from our own but right on our doorstep. Hikmatul Zihad, a previously unknown group is said to have claimed responsibility for this atrocity. Now we have yet another extremist organisation to contend with. I was not aware that claiming the lives of innocent people was a part of Jihad. In fact I was under the impression that taking the lives of any other human being was deemed as murder.

In my mind it shows cowardice on the part of all terrorist groups to target people who are unable to defend themselves. Where is the glory in shooting a child? Where is the honour in blowing up a building full of unsuspecting victims? In most religions Suicide and Murder are both cardinal sins but it seems to have become easy to manipulate religion into a tool where any actions that are heinous in their nature are supposed to become commendable if you do it in the name of your God or religion.




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