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
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
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.