Martyrs: Innocence, Vengeance, and Despair in the Middle East

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Martyrs offers compelling and chilling interviews with terrorist trainers, with the families of suicide bombers, fighters and fanatics, and with Muslim scholars offering differing opinions on the legitimacy of violence in Islam. Through the voices of those who plan and those who grieve, Martyrs provides provocative and troubling insights into the zealotry that leads to the targeting of innocents, the endless cycle of revenge, and the despair that besets the Middle East. From Iran to Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, Joyce Davis reports on the rage that drives tragedies and at the despondency of the mothers of those who die and kill. Unsettling as the perspectives presented here may be, they are crucial to understanding, though not accepting, the fury at and resentment of the US.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"...timely, informative and well-written book...a 'must read' book for those seeking to understand..."--L.O. Imade, Choice
" evenhanded...investigation of martyrdom."--Stephen J. Lyons, USA Today

"From the author of Between Jihad and Salaam (1997) comes this insightful, balanced discussion of a hot-button subject."--David Pitt, Booklist

"Martyrs is must reading for all seeking to understand the causes of the anti-Americanism, violence and terror that has engulfed the Middle East. Davis breaks new ground in her engaging, informed, frank and provocative analysis of the people behind jihad, martyrdom and suicide bombing, shedding light on their impact in the Middle East and America."
--John L. Esposito, Georgetown University, author of Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam

"Davis has done her homework in providing an enlightening and well-documented analysis of acts of vengeance in the recent Middle East. Her reporting is balanced, candid and true to the facts. An important text in helping the layperson understand the ramifications of U.S. foreign policy decisions in the Middle East over the last several decades."
--Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Georgetown University

"Do suicide bombers perceive themselves as making a choice? That is the central question in this horrible phenomenon. With attention to detail from victims like young Mohammed al-Dirra to the "choice" by young women like Loula Abboud, Davis chronicles the trajectory from history to despair to hope, and in each case, asks why this happened.. and how to get out."
--Jacki Lyden, host and correspondent, All Things Considered, NPR News

Publishers Weekly
The questions veteran journalist Davis tackles in her investigation of suicide attacks are the same gripping and unsettling ones most Americans asked in the days after September 11. "Why would anyone so viciously attack the United States?" she asks. "What would make anyone kill himself and...other people in a brutal fashion? And does Islam really condone that type of holy war and martyrdom?" Martyrdom has been deemed the ultimate Islamic sacrifice since the savage murder of Prophet Mohammad's grandson, Hussein, at Karbala (in modern-day Iran) in the late seventh century-but why is it now more alive than ever? From Iran to Lebanon to the hotbed of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza, Davis (Between Jihad and Salaam: Profiles in Islam) tracks the deep-seated feelings of anger, injustice and despondency fueling this brand of glorified violence, where the body becomes the weapon and the soul is guaranteed a place with "God in Heaven." Her lengthy interviews-with everyone from the family of a female fanatic, to mothers of children martyred both in the crossfire and as suicide bombers, to the masterminds behind these missions-offer great insight into the proud, desperate hearts of the Palestinian people. But her subjects' rhetoric of hatred can be unrelenting, and her failure to frame it or their reading of history in dispassionate perspective lends a certain flabbiness to an otherwise lean and gutsy work. Davis's reporting is impressive in its access and depth, but it can be patchy on analysis. Still, this is a good introduction to an issue of great import, and a reminder that "terrorism, especially that propelled by martyrdom, cannot be stopped without eliminating the motivation for such violence." (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
Through interviews with those directly affected by terrorism — relatives of both suicide bombers and their innocent victims — Davis has managed to boil this subject down to its frightening and heartbreaking human dimension. She includes stories of Iranian child soldiers in the brutal Iran-Iraq War and the September 11 hijackers, but most of her coverage is devoted to Palestinian suicide bombers, including two chilling profiles of those who train volunteers for suicide missions. In telling these individual stories, Davis weaves in descriptions of the organizations involved, the diverse views of Muslim scholars on suicide bombings, and the opinions of those deemed to be "terrorism experts." A chapter titled "Can They Be Stopped?" examines various approaches to fighting terrorism. Davis insists that "they" hate "us" because of the specifics of U.S. policy, but notes that "they" are a small minority of Muslims. The implicit conclusion is that both policy changes and a better dialogue with moderate Muslims are needed.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403966810
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/13/2004
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Joyce M. Davis is Associate Director of Broadcasting for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and supervises American broadcast services to Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Central Asia and is the author of Between Jihad and Salaam: Profiles in Islam (Palgrave Macmillan, 1999).

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Table of Contents

A Minister's Question: What Have We Done that they Hate Us So?
• The Innocents: Mohammed al Dirrah and Avraham Yitzak Schiijveschuurder
• The Child as Soldier-Martyr: Iran's Hussein Fahmideh
• The Woman as Soldier-Martyr and Suicide Bomber
• Loula Abboud
• Suicide Bombers and Sept. 11: Muhammad Atta and Izzidene al Masri
• The Mothers of Martyrs: Munabrahim Daoud and Um Iyad
• The Trainers: Abu Muhammad and Munir al Makdah
• Can the be Stopped?
• The Hate and the Hope

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