Sunday, June 22, 2008

Suicide Bombings, Response, and Khadra


Yasmina Khadra does not give us the full motivation of the female suicide bomber in The Attack. He leaves the idea of an embodied bomb out there to consrast with other ideas in the book. It is juxtaposed against the character of Amin, a selfish doctor who chooses life in medical care but is as selfish as a bomber when it comes to personal motivations. The suicide attack is positioned against Israel's airstrike response. These juxtapositions bring up questions but do not define. What are we to take from that idea?
Talal Asad writes of suicide bombers "that motives in general are more complicated than is popularly supposed and that the assumption that they are truths to be accessed is mistaken: the motives of suicide bombers in particular are inevitably fictions that justify our responses but that we cannot verify" (3). If this is true, what does Khadra and maybe even literature in general provide? A verification or new assumption to add to the list? Or, does lit have a productive insight, method, or idea to posit that will challenge our thought process in a productive way? If so, how does Khadra carry it out?

16 comments:

John Collins said...

I think the Talal Asad's quote really exemplifies Sihem and how we can never understand her motives and the intentions of her committing a suicide attack. As Americans, we have been force fed images of the death and destruction caused from suicide bombings so we naturally assume any person who would carry one out is purely evil and any group that celebrates a suicide bomber as a martyr is also evil.

Literature such as The Attack challenges our assumptions or our feelings in regard to suicide bombings. It seems as though Khadra is taking a sympathetic view towards the Palestinians, portraying their struggle almost like David vs. Goliath. The juxtapositions of the Isreali air attack against the suicide bombings makes readers question (like we did today in class) if the two acts are similar and Isreal is just feeding into the cycle of violence. I think literature definintely has benefits for broadening our minds and challenging our assumptions, but I think The Attack proves that even literature is not without bias because Khadra repeatedly injects anti-Semetic sayings and references into the book.

callie grace said...

word j.collins--great parallelism to David and Goliath there. As far as the insight to the reason behind Sihem's suicide bombing being 'productive'...

I empathize with Sihem's story to an extent and this insight was productive in allowing us to see the human strapped to the bomb. Sihem, trapped in a prison of someone else's dream for her life, had no escape but to take drastic measures. This is where I stop with empathizing with her desperate situation and wonder why she felt a suicide bombing would be that avenue. When we allow other peoples (or the medias, governments, etc...) dreams, decisions, and demands on our lives drive our actions we have lost our own existence. Sihem went from under Amin's authority to the authority of The Cause.

{Guess who doesn't have their book in front of them (hint: me)} But there is a passage toward the end (around 218-ish) describing Freedom and how it is not a passport issued by the government, food we eat, etc... Freedom is not free if it is confined by someone else's definition. Sihem fought for her freedom, but did so only by imprisoning her mind and body to a different master.

callie grace said...

final point i left out--suicide bombings are wrong and evil. I do not believe there is a just cause for such horrific terrorist acts so in that sense, Khadra's portrayal had little effect on my view of suicide bombings. I understand there is a story, a past and a reason behind every heart beat--but the end doesn't justify the means--to achieve her "freedom" doesn't give Sihem the right to sacrifice herself and others.

jtjohnson2009 said...

I agree with the David vs. Goliath comment. Being on the smaller side of asymmetrical is something that as Americans I don't think we understand. That's why suicide bombing is an unthinkable action to us. We've never had the short end of the stick so to say. However, I think that if we did we probably wouldn't take to such drastic actions.

yanks4life10 said...

I am so down with the symbolism between America and Goliath. What I am not down with though is thinking that just because we have never seen the short end of the stick that means that suicide bombers or the groups that support them are at the short end of the stick. If you recall from class the other day, the israeles were perfectly fine with sharing the holy land but it was the palestinians that waged war first. Also, i find it almost cowardly that they send women to be the suicide bombers. In their religion, it is forbidden that women leave the house or are seen out in public but why is it that its ok for them to go blow themselves up? I cant help notice the irony through Sihem and her lifestyle compared to that of a traditional muslim wife. She has all the liberties and freedoms in the world yet she still feel entrapped like many muslim women do. can anyone help me out with why this is?

John Collins said...

Yanks, I don't think she feels trapped the same way other Muslim women are because she was allowed to speak her mind and not fear for her life (like Amin's sister) and she had the freedom to do things for herself as opposed to having a man tell her what to do. I think the irony is that even though she had all of the things we, as Americans, associate with freedom she still didn't feel right about her life and preferred the male-dominated Muslim world that restrict women from having freedom. In some odd way Sihem found the freedom she was craving when she was liberated from her captivity in Isreal by the same radical Muslim culture that subjugates millions of women and gives them no freedom.

CAH said...

About the feuding-I could not help but think about the Hatfields and McCoys in the Appalachians. We should study feuding and suicides from every aspect--I'm certain that would take a decade or more if we worked on it--However people involved in the feuds need the understanding and education. Do they want it? I found this info http://appalachiangreens.blogspot.com/2007/04/appalachians-genetically-predeposed-to.html

lilyofthefield09 said...

I think that John brings up a really interesting point. Sihem found freedom in a life almost completely devoid of conventional freedom - freedom as Americans see it. What I think we don't understand about why a Muslim woman would choose a traditional Muslim life over a life filled with "American" freedoms is - in a way - the same thing we don't understand about the Israel-Palestine conflict. We try to avoid talking about the religious side of the issues by circumventing it for the political ideals like freedom and oppression. Sihem found freedom in her religious society, and to criticize the choice that she makes (not the bombing part, the giving up all of her freedom and luxury part) I think we are ignoring one of our own American staples - freedom of religion. I think this correlates to the Israel-Palestine conflict because in ignoring the religious differences between the two groups we are negating the very thing that makes Americans unique - our differences. We are -as Callie put it - ignoring the elephant in the room when we ignore the very basis of the issue. By trying to force a democratic peace between two warring religious communities, it's like we're using butter to heal a sunburn instead of aloe. The butter looks good and maybe it feels good on the burn, but it doesn't actually heal it. (I know that's a strange analogy, but I was having a hard time expressing myself.)

Sihem was trying to heal the burn in the best way she knew how, though it was misguided. Suicide bombings are not the answer to the problem in Israel and Palestine, but at least she was able to see the root of the problem and forcibly attach herself to one side, instead of playing the fool like America.

JE said...

Literature leaves the opinions and ideas up to the reader. Khadra gives us no specific answers are reasoning behind the suicide bombers thoughts, however, we are led to some reason of motivation through the eyes of the characters who knew her outside of her home. Sihem had a reason. She felt that she was making a stance but those who survive will never truly know the reason. Now the idea of pure evil is irrational. I dont believe that there is truly any justification to the bomber, but if one believes that this will help uproot the injustices of thier home and bring them peace, how is that evil. Note...I have no other way to justify it based on my belief system, but I must see the other side. I too would risk my life for my family, and i think that this character was forced to belief that she was on a battle field risking her life to save her nation. This is the same as our soilders today, no they dont expect to die, but they know the consequences. The novel takes on these ideas to form your own intellectual synopsis of the issues. Now this "selfish" bomber is just as giving as the next man, but neither side may never understand.

JE said...

J.Collins, I understand what you are saying about her feeling trap, but look at the perspective that she has no "home". From reading this, I believe that she was spiritually trapped and she had no direction or place of peace. That is a powerful grief. She may have been better off in a more traditional Muslim system, then she probably would have felt more grounded to her roots. Our views of her perfect life was damnation for her. The selfish act was to set her free, however this did nothing for the people.

KLamm said...

Going back to the original post, I really like Asad's statement that "the assumption that they are truths to be accessed is mistaken" and that "the motives...are inevitably fictions". I think through our discussions we've all come to the basic conclusion that terrorist acts are performed in an effort to instill fear and preach a message. However, as we can see from the Israel-Palestine conflict, these "messages" don't always get through.. they only prolong the fight. Can suicide bombers and terrorists in that area really believe that their actions are going to stop anything or defeat anything? The motive of teaching a lesson or punishing or whatever is basically fiction over there. It's not going to happen, and I think people are fooling themselves if they think that the continuous terrorism that they take part in is going to solve anything. On a larger scale, there is no longer truth or reality in the motives of the suicide bombers and terrorists of that area.

However, in The Attack, Khadra somewhat shows us the perspective of an individual suicide bomber. Although we don't have her complete reason for her decision, we gain some idea through the assumptions of people that knew her. He brings the terrorism to a very personal level. I think through literature, we are able to bring back some of the motives and truth that have been lost in endless fighting and see deeper into the root of the problem. Perhaps Khadra wants us to see an individual suicide bombers motive to make us see the greater motive in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

overboard said...

I think we're kinda of missing the point though -- not about suicide bombing in general, but the fact that Sihem was female. It shows desperation in the cause of radical Islam that they're willing to sacrifice their women (and in a rising trend, children too) in order to further their cause. I think radical Islam has realized that, in American 'weakness,' not only do we view suicide bombing as abhorrent and evil, but the dramatic effect of recruiting women and children hits the media hard, and as such, filters immediately to the general populace globally.

I honestly don't think anbody will be able to understand what motivates somebody to commit suicide in the furtherance of a cause. You can just as easily further a cause and not sacrifice your life and the lives of innocent others. Aside from the ease of brainwashing women and children in a heavily male-dominated society, I can't think of any other reason why 'one man's suicide bomber is another's freedom fighter' could possibly be applied in the case of radical Islam at all.

John Collins said...

Overboard, I agree that radical fundamentalists using females as suicide bombers is dispicable and shows the lengths they are willing to go for the cause; however, I think Sihem's case is a little different from female bombers who are forced into killing themselves. Her bombing doesn't reveal the desparation of Islamic radicals because she wasn't forced into carrying out the bombing, it was her choice. According to Adel, "I didn't want her to blow herself up, but she was determined. Evan Imam Marwan was unable to dissuade her" (221). I think by making the decision to commit a suicide bombing strictly Sihem's, Yasmina Khadra is make readers more sympathetic to the cause she is fighting for and is just trying to portray the Palestinan struggle in a better light.

Vijay said...

I agree with what Klamm said about the terrorists motives. I feel that these two warring nations have been fighting for so long that their attacks are no longer intertwined with their messages. It has just become a brutal cycle of retaliations. It has gotten to the point that when we see attacks like this on the news, we just think it is another malicious attack by a religious zealot. Through Khadra's literature, and literature in general, we can actually go back to that personal level and see the reasons why these people make those choices.

DTower said...

Don't get me wrong, this is my favorite book out of all the ones we've read, but the thing that vexes me about the whole text is that we only get a little info behind her motives. I have a problem with it because no matter what any character says (adel, Amin) I can't wrap my head around the significance of her decision.
Sure she was "imprisoned" in a life that she didn't want but why strap a bomb to yourself in order to gain her "liberation" and further your cause? First off, while everbody talks about her heroism and martyrdom nobody can explain how Sihem blowing herself up in the middle of a kids birthday party helps streghten these zealots cause. Moreso, what drives her to keep this from Amin. A better question is why does she submit to this "cause" before consulting her husband? I think that it was Sihem who was mesmorized by the idea of suicide bombing and what it stood for. In other words, she seems like a dramitic and bored housewife to me.
And that just it, we can't get the side of the suicide bomber, his motives remain a mystery and from those who are hear to tell about it depends on the perspective that tells it which will form your position on it.

rjrpat said...

Response to J. Collins "As Americans, we have been force fed images of the death and destruction caused from suicide bombings so we naturally assume any person who would carry one out is purely evil and any group that celebrates a suicide bomber as a martyr is also evil."

I would have to disagree with a strong passion towards this statement that you have made. I believe that after certain national or international events such as terrorist events occur, than yes the media will play towards a biased opinion. I believe that this is to spur the feelings of patriotism and nationalism. I also feel that for you to say that we are "force fed" a biased image against a different nationality and/or religion is wrong, we have the option as human beings to turn a radio/tv off and it is your desicion to believe something. The media is there to offer insight not tell you what is right or wrong.