(Not) Every Death is a Martyr

The usurption of religious symbols for justifying war, vengence, and destruction is a long held practice. Most of the time, however, this appreciation fails to register and the media and the majority of the disengaged audience assumes validity of the religiousity of their cause.

The old adage that there are no atheists in war is easily
ported to modern conflicts. Many if not most of the conflicts ongoing right now
have sought foundations in the religiousness of the (perceived) persecuted and
their cause. These people, both men and women, are generally labeled guerillas
or terrorists without regard to their fundamental motives. This is similar to
the human desire to believe what somebody says at face value.

Sure, sometimes we discount the answer to question or attempt
to frame it, but some information is just taken and passed along. Religious
backing and justification is important to many modern terrorists. Sometimes
only acknowledged within their own communities and with “immunity” to
transgressions by their religious leaders that from an outsider’s point of view
would be heresy, Americans Timothy McVeigh and al-Zarqawi have much in common. These
religious zealots (a term originating from Jewish “freedom fighters” fighting
the Roman Empire) fall into a long line of co-opters taking advantage of
religion for their own benefit.

Their own beliefs aside, the problem is when the media plays
into this and propagates and helps form the image of these identity thieves. The
corruption of jihad, Terry Schiavo, and
abortion clinic bombings and doctor assassinations receive various amounts of
religious media overtones that are (usually loosely or poorly) orchestrated by
the perpetrators.

This issue, better discussed by Bruce Hoffman in Inside
, is clear when looking at a Kurdish website extolling the “victories”
over the Turks. Listing casualties and captured equipment like box scores in
the sports section, they list their own dead as “martyrs” and
even dedicate
attacks to dead comrades

Regardless of my belief on who is responsible for their
current mess of Kurdish affairs and what the appropriate path to resolution
should be, this is a political situation and not a religious fight. While this
site does actually do justice to the political cause, at least they appear more
pragmatic than other websites, the choice of nouns is revealing to what they really believe.