The Decision to Become a Suicide Bomber Essay

The Decision to Become a Suicide Bomber Essay

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Although journalist Dexter Filkins has spent years covering the war in Iraq, he still appears unsure as to what exactly motivates a suicide bomber to embrace jihad. Citing a specific example in his book, The Forever War, Filkins poses the question, “The most intriguing part of Ra’ad’s story was unknowable. How did an English-speaking, American-loving, hair-gel-wearing lawyer who’d walked among the bikinis of Santa Monica come to blow himself up in Iraq?” (177). While this particular quandary may appear unknowable to Filkins, the motivation behind suicide bombers’ actions may be more obvious than he thinks. It is no secret that American culture differs immensely from that of the Islamic way of life, as both groups have great difficulty understanding the motivation behind the other’s traditions. These differences may not be the primary problem however, as John Farmer suggests in his book, The Ground Truth, that American foreign policy seems to be the driving factor behind Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s decision to organize the attack on 9/11. Perhaps the two cultures really aren’t as different as they seem. Conceivably, Filkins’ initial inquiry may be irrelevant to Ra’ad’s ultimate decision to become a suicide bomber.
One common misconception held by Americans is that those who practice Islam hate everything about the Western world. The two cultures certainly appear to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, especially in terms of the role women fill in society. In fact, it doesn’t get much different than bikinis and burqas. To an Islamic man, the obsession over appearance and pleasure in America must be appalling. Nobody has expressed this belief better than Sayyid Qutb, who wrote in his manifesto, “Humanity today is ...

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... taken to America and its gadgets and its liberties like no other son of the Muslim world I had ever met” (339). Even the women in Iraq appear open to the American treatment of females. Noticing a group of women in burqas wearing “stylish, expensive shoes, high heels, low heels and flats, of the latest Italian styles”, Filkins overhears, “I could be shopping in Paris, but instead, I am here, in this awful place” (43). The oppression of women in Islamic society is overwhelming, especially in areas controlled by the Taliban. A woman passing on the street proclaims to Filkins, “I was a teacher of Persian…this is like a death” (35). Through these experiences, Filkins should have realized that it is not American culture, including the bikinis of Santa Monica, which motivated Ra’ad to commit jihad, rather America’s unwelcome occupation and involvement in the Middle East.

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