“Sacrifice, Gift and the Social Logic of Muslim ‘Human Bombers'”

For this week’s discussion, consider the following comments from Ivan Strenski’s 2003 article, “Sacrifice, Gift and the Social Logic of Muslim ‘Human Bombers’”:

“Even from a strictly military point of view, it seems strategically of dubious efficiency to undertake operations that in effect guarantee the loss of one’s fighters in every assault. Ideally, for a movement aimed at actual military victory, it would seem to make more sense if, instead of killing themselves in the process of making their attacks, the ‘human bombers’ could have gone on killing many more…in subsequent non-suicidal attacks. Osama bin Laden surely continues to inspire more terror today as potentially alive than he would have had he died in a martyrdom operation in Afghanistan…the strictly military rationality of these operations does not seem necessarily or undividedly the only priority of these self-inflicted deaths (pg. 3).”

One can hardly argue with this. It is not logical to use humans as weapons. To do so is to launch an offensive guaranteed to cost 100% of one’s mission personnel which would not be considered effective military strategy. We know some losses are inevitable in many military conflicts, but here we are talking about a 100% loss of personnel sent on the mission each time a suicide bomber attack occurs. If we assume based on the statements above that “human bombers” are not about military strategy, then what are they about? Why are they used? Are suicide bombers motivated by a view of themselves as reflective of jihadist perspectives of them as being sacrifices and/or “gifts”


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