August 9, 2007 Special Dispatch No. 1670

Tunisian Poet and Civil Rights Activist Basit Bin Hasan on Suicide Bombers Who Attack Funeral Processions

August 9, 2007
North Africa, Tunisia | Special Dispatch No. 1670

In a July 13, 2007 article on the liberal Arab website Al-Awan, Tunisian poet Basit Bin Hasan, who is a former director of the Tunis-based Arab Institute for Human Rights, wrote that for some in Arab society killing had become a goal unto itself, and that in order to fight the phenomenon of suicide bombings and other manifestations of disregard for human life, Arab societies must overcome their "moral indolence" and reconsider the meaning of life and death.

The following are excerpts from the article: [1]

"The Killing of Humans with Cold, Organized Violence Has Become a Goal Unto Itself"

"This is going on in Iraq, and in places closer to us than we imagine: suicide bombers are targeting the funeral processions of people who were themselves victims of previous suicide attacks.

"In one single motion, and with rare determination, they blow up their own bodies amidst the bodies of the living and the bodies of the dead. In these attacks they are targeting not [only] the areas of life; they are targeting as well the area that separates life from the afterlife – the time of death and mourning. In this kind of suicide, they have united the killing of the living with the killing of the dead.

"They impair our moral conceptions of life and death, and open the gates to a 'new' time – a time of nothingness, in which suicide attacks turn into an absolute and uninterrupted trajectory, divorced from historical goals, and in which the killing of humans with cold, organized violence becomes a goal unto itself.

"Thus the killing of the living and the dead in suicide attacks targeting funeral processions is a frightening phenomenon that boggles the mind, and which, at this point in history, calls for penetrating intellectual and moral attention."

Our Intellectuals Have Recourse to a Logic of Perpetual Justification of Suicide Attacks

"Is life worth living? Is the goal of life to propagate new and different lives and to attain a form of collective happiness in the world of men? Or is the worth of man the destruction of humanity through the destruction of himself and others? And what is the place of death in the path to recognition of the importance of life?

"Many philosophies, both ancient and modern, have attempted to consider politics through these fundamental ethical questions, [but] our intellectuals are expert in ignoring them and marginalizing them. They have persisted in their feeble and monotonous discussions of suicide attacks and in having recourse to the logic of perpetual justification and tolerance for the intolerable.

"At times, they base themselves on an absolute concept of 'resistance,' without any profound reflection on the multiple meanings of this concept and its historical specificity; at other times, they base themselves on the fact that there is no clear and internationally accepted definition of terrorism… as though the absence of a definition for any given phenomenon can permit opening the gates of moral meaninglessness…"

"The Demon in Man Has Escaped From Its Bottle"

"The Arab intellectuals who have defended suicide attacks, whether openly, or through sly and cunning rhetoric, by describing them as an absolute right that aims to achieve political goals, have not only taken part in justifying crimes of destruction against living beings; they have also contributed in keeping [the question of] the meaning of life and death in our societies from being raised.

"The justification of suicide attacks by intellectuals, who are considered authorities, and through the authority of language and the media, has opened gates of fear that will not be shut before our societies are brought to experience the meaning of nothingness and obliteration in their absolute forms.

"[Now] everyone can kill or be killed: the 'resisting' suicide attacker, who has moved on from killing the enemy to killing all; the extremist politician, who has moved on from fighting he who differs from him politically to killing the society that differs from him; people who kill [other] people frantically attempting to face up to tragedies of life and [its] narrow straits; and the state, over which there is no supervision, and which has established a system to lay siege to all and to murder them, in institutions that monitor daily life.

"Thus the demon in man has escaped from its bottle, and everything has become possible. The human body, which used to be ruled by a biological memory that defined the path from birth to death, and by a moral memory that defined the meaning of its experience in existence, has been left in complete nakedness. It has become a body without memory, sufficient unto itself, no longer to struggle for the rule of memory and to plunge into the risks of life, but which rather [exists] in order to destroy itself and others. Destruction has become the life of the body and the meaninglessness that denies the meaning of life and death.

"Today we see that the suicide attacks, which our intellectuals imagined were a temporary means to achieve political benefit, have turned into a fixed institution of their own, with their own particular logic, which is the death of all logic.

"The number of these attacks has risen in a number of our countries, and their forms and methods have become varied. Men and women throw their exploding bodies into armies armed with the latest achievements of destructive weapons technology. Children and youth are led by adults to places where they will kill themselves and kill others. Unexpected suicide bombings hit cafes, hotels, restaurants, engagement parties, government institutions, the media, mosques, churches, and means of transport.

"Now, the attacks are, by striking funeral processions, searching out regions that we naively imagined were unassailable.... [But] some sons of our societies have transgressed all boundaries and have written in the ink of their corpses the dreadful book of nothingness.

"The Objectification of the Self and the Other… is What Makes Any Crime Permissible"

"The objectification of the self and the other, and the stripping of beings from their humanity, is what makes any crime permissible, no matter how hideous or absurd.

"The suicide attackers have, in this great act of objectification, turned into new gods with absolute control over life and death. These black gods, who have lost their ties to history, decide, through the killing of their bodies which no longer mean anything to them, when and how the lives of others will come to an end.

"We are no longer just facing extremists motivated by political and religious goals. We have entered a phase in which the narcissist suicide attackers have gone beyond Islamic conceptions of life and death.

"The phenomenon of increasing suicide attacks and the steadily multiplying groups of suicide bombers is a historic predicament that raises grave questions as to the extent of our dealing morally and responsibly with issues of life and death in our societies.

"Enough of This Destructive Insanity"

"Faced with the phenomenon of absolute killing and violence that are sweeping our societies, some are still repeating that there are limits to the nothingness surrounding us, and that our desire to [survive] will… stop the collapse, and that an absolute conscience will arise from our dark reality and say 'enough of this destructive insanity,' and will bring back society's desire for life…

"The destructive tendency to which the suicide attacks have led us… is one among a number of other manifestations that have taken root in our societies and that are no less frightening…

"These manifestations, and others [like them], are just lead-ins to a greater worry that has settled into what we call our lives – a worry over an uncertain future, and a worry over our inability to define the forces that rule our fates and decide [matters of] our life and death.

"To start emerging from the tunnel [requires] confronting the general moral indolence and opening a large-scale dialogue on the meaning of life and death in our societies…"

[1], July 13, 2007.

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