Reforming would-be suicide bombers in Pakistan

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With deep brown eyes and a beguiling smile, Gul Khan looks just like others boys of his age.


No-one would ever think that a few months ago this 18-year-old was arrested wearing a suicide vest, hours before he was to blow himself up at Kohat University in north-west Pakistan.

Gul was at school in Kohat, a city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. During the summer holidays, he would visit his ancestral village in a tribal area near the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It was in that volatile territory that one of his cousins connected him to the militants and he was recruited for training.

"They [the militants] used to give us lectures [saying that] according to Sharia [Islamic law] it is obligatory to pursue jihad [holy war] against the government now. I lost my mind and started believing them. They lectured me for three months," says Gul Khan.

He tells me his story from a centre established by Pakistan's army in the town of Tank, close to the border with Afghanistan, for the rehabilitation of young men who supported and sympathised with militants.

One of three such units in Pakistan, the centre is protected by tight security. But inside there are classrooms for vocational training, a basketball court, a TV room and a mosque.

Gul Khan underwent militant training with around 12 others at a camp in the Orakzai tribal region. His parents were completely unaware of this radicalisation until his last trip to Kohat.

Written By: Shumaila Jaffrey
continue to source article at bbc.co.uk

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  1. Surely, if some bunch of nutjobs says to you “put on this massive amount of explosive and blow yourself up to kill some foreign people” you might think it was at least a bit odd? I would.

    • In reply to #1 by roxyrox:

      Surely, if some bunch of nutjobs says to you “put on this massive amount of explosive and blow yourself up to kill some foreign people” you might think it was at least a bit odd? I would.

      Exactly!

  2. “They [the militants] used to give us lectures [saying that] according to Sharia [Islamic law] it is obligatory to pursue jihad [holy war] against the government now. I lost my mind and started believing them. They lectured me for three months,” says Gul Khan.”

    I am pissed off with both Harris and Atran. I’ve always been pissed off with Atran, at least, as soon as I realised he collected mostly useless data by asking ambiguous and unrevealing questions of his would be suicide bombers and their recruiters. (Why on earth he would expect the latter to tell the truth? These are savvy people who probably lie to their own people for the cause. Lying to Atran for the same reason ain’t no biggie.) Sam has just been eating too much of his own dog food. Scott is right, he needs more evidence and less opinion.

    But, Scott, political motivation for the bombers is a modest factor and for the higher profile bombers in the west, perhaps, but not for the bulk. Sam, it isn’t right to say its “Islam” nor even Islamism is the root cause though these are facilitating elements.

    It is Clerics and political leaders and exploiters who use the hugely fit-for-purpose Koran to effectively arm the human bombs. Sharia is the source of evidence for transgressions and appropriate punishments. Paradise is the reward. Blaming Islam, though, is fatuous and will achieve nothing. It is the exploiters who use it as the detonator. Without the clerics political leaders and exploiters Islam, like all such bollocks, gets turned into something with a more human face.

    Until we see clearly where the pull-able levers are, this won’t get fixed. It won’t get fixed by Atran or Harris, that’s for sure.

    • ” It is Clerics and political leaders and exploiters who use the hugely fit-for-purpose Koran to effectively arm the human bombs. “

      I wonder how many of those clerics are secretly agnostic or even atheist.

      In reply to #4 by phil rimmer:

      “They [the militants] used to give us lectures [saying that] according to Sharia [Islamic law] it is obligatory to pursue jihad [holy war] against the government now. I lost my mind and started believing them. They lectured me for three months,” says Gul Khan.”

      I am pissed off with both Harris and…

      • In reply to #13 by Marktony:

        ” It is Clerics and political leaders and exploiters who use the hugely fit-for-purpose Koran to effectively arm the human bombs. “

        I wonder how many of those clerics are secretly agnostic or even atheist.

        I have every expectation that there are high numbers of socially skilled sociopaths amongst them. I Being unbelievers themselves would be entirely consistent.

  3. Not wishing to sound like an apologist, but ANYTHING can be manipulated and reinterpreted to mean something entirely different from its original intention.
    “The right to bare arms” comes to mind: Yup, muzzle loaders, swords etc. The typical armament of the 1770ies. Personally I don’t have a problem with that. However what we have today high velocity semi automatic and automatic hand guns and assault weapons are a far cry from the quaint muzzle loaders. Where do we draw the line? Right to bear nuclear missiles?
    The point I’m trying to make is the context in which much of the Koran and Sharia laws were written are no longer relevant to today’s society. The original laws have stagnated.
    It is the interpretation of those old texts by modern clerics, mullahs etc. with very questionable motives ( to put it politely) that are the real problem. They are the ones that are the rabble rousers. They take an undereducated society, enforce their wills on that society to ensure their own and their many offsprings life of luxury.
    Nothing new really, but until these sub humans are called out for what they actually are- organized criminals, they will continue to flourish and nothing will change.
    An educated public is THE last thing these cretins want- which is why they blow up schools and educational facilities, especially girls schools, because they cannot fathom women actually being anything else but breeders.
    Kudos to the military for trying to change this despicable pattern, but 3 camps in a country of 180 million is peanuts. They need 10,000 of such camps to make a real difference as well as provide educational and vocational opportunities outside the reach of those dreadful clerics. jcw
    EDIT: WTF happened to all my paragraphs and punctuation? This auto edit by the program is a PITA! Get into the 21st Century guys!

  4. In reply to #5 by ukantic:

    In reply to #4 by phil rimmer:

    Until we see clearly where the pull-able levers are, this won’t get fixed. It won’t get fixed by Atran or Harris, that’s for sure.

    You may be interested in a recent book – The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Des…

    Thanks for this. I had seen the book when it came out. I thought I had commented on it on this site, but can find no trace. I think Lankford brings one more credible element into play. The bombers are often in some sense depressed/suicidal, or just have a feeling that they are underachieving. In a perverse sense, a bold gesture morphs a mere suicide into a martyrdom, at a stroke brings meaning and public acheivement to those who feel lower status and less respected than they would like. This is a very earthly (not religious) and personal (not political) concern and is counter to both Harris and Atran, but it makes perfect sense that clerics and exploiters would pick on these sorts of people first.

  5. Training people to commit suicide and kill others simultaneously is in my view a criminal act.
    The culture of extreme Islam is nauseating!
    No one seems to debate the criminal nature of Islamic dogma?

  6. I’m repeating myself on this one, but it might be timely to highlight an excellent overview of the hormones and neurotransmitters involved with death cults and the AA 12 steps programs.

    Link is: sex drugs and cults

    Keith Henson, the author, is a very interesting guy. Has an entry in Wikipedia. In case anyone thinks that rd.net is there for harmless amusement, something I’m often guilty of, his experiences are an object lesson in the potentially disastrous consequences of challenging organised religions in primitive authoritarian societies.

  7. Remember that in WWI and WWII soldiers often took on “suicide” missions — ones with very low probability of return.

    This does not require religion to trigger.

    Further it is not always irrational. If you can kill 10 of the enemy with a suicide attack, and most likely just kill yourself in a non-suicide attack, the suicide attack is a rational way to protect your home and country.

    What does not make any since is a suicide attack on civilians.

  8. @kaiserkriss: You mention the context has changed since the Koran was written. The problem being in Islam the Koran is the perfect unchanging word of Allah for ever. To be the last word in any time, it supposedly clear and cannot be touched.
    This is why there needs to be reform, or else the horror of the Koran will continue for that reason, because it is horrible, decisive and downright obscene.

  9. Depressing that the teacher has to have his face blanked out for his own safety.

    The headline could be re-punctuated: “Reforming would be suicide” – bombers in Pakistan.

    I really feel very little hope for Pakistan. It is a failed state. Any politician who attempts even the mildest reforms in the face of Islamist opposition ends up dead. And one of the largest armies in the world is looking over his or her shoulder to ensure compliance as well. Basically, it is not a democracy.

  10. Appalling but predictable, given the drivers of superstition and ignorance.

    They really do just make it up as they go along; I heard a young ex militant Muslim the other day on the radio saying that the word “Islam” means love.

    No it does not!

    It’s from the Arabic ‘islam’ and means ‘submission’, from ‘aslama’ submit to God.

    I have been told by a Muslim that todays science and technology were all prophesied in the Qur’an.

    No they weren’t!

    I think they just believe what ever the Mullas tell them.

    Next time I see the chap who told me about science in his holy book I’m going to ask him how many Suras there are in it and in which ones I can find such references.

    There’s another bloke who’s Catholic and I’m going to ask him what the first book of the New Testament is.

    My money’s on neither of them knowing the answer to either question.

    Incidentally, there is no mention in the Qur’an of Mullas. They invented themselves in the eleventh century. Principal among them being Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1050-1111).

    Fairy Tales for grown-ups, all of it!

    • In reply to #14 by Stafford Gordon:

      I heard a young ex militant Muslim the other day on the radio saying that the word “Islam” means love.
      No it does not!

      He calls himself a Muslim. You don’t. He calls the shots in this case more than you do, and good luck to him. If he wants to reform a call for submission into a call to love, then great. If the perfect manual for creating robot warriors now has people wishing for a more nuanced and civilised interpretation then why should we alter strategies just for this religious text and insist on a cold logical non metaphorical adherence to the text?

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