The making of a suicide bomber

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

ACCORDING to a report, 20 suicide bombings have occurred in Pakistan since last year in which 213 lives have been lost. Since all of these have been carried out by people emerging from madressahs run by religious extremists, it is plain that they have been indoctrinated and trained by their mentors.

One wonders what makes a person commit such a heinous crime and that too in such a way that he gives up his own life in the process. It is now common knowledge that people committing suicide are mentally ill – it is depression and an intense sense of hopelessness and despair that drives them to resort to the extreme measure of taking their own life. But psychiatrists and psychologists are unanimous in their view that suicide bombers are not suffering from depression.

Then what is it that induces them to perform a deed which is quite unnatural? After all, nature has imbued the survival instinct in all living beings. Without this, the human race would not have sustained itself. There must, therefore, be some powerful motivation that drives a man or woman to kill him/herself.

In Pakistan’s case, it is widely believed that the would-be-suicide bombers are driven to their supposedly noble action by the so-called promise of paradise.

The dream of an idyllic life in ‘Behesht’ has been drilled into them so thoroughly that the impoverished and the famished, who have nothing to lose in this world but their poverty and misery, choose to kill themselves and along with themselves a few “infidels” who are perceived to be the enemies of the faith.

But there must still be something more that drives them. To discover that we need to take a close look at those madressahs which are the breeding grounds of suicide bombers.

According to the National Education Census conducted by the government for the first time in 2006, there are altogether 13,805 deeni madaris in the country, the highest number being in Punjab. There are 1.5 million students enrolled in them which is like a drop in the ocean when you count the number of students in the supposedly secular institutions – 33.3 million.

Perhaps, the most remarkable aspect of these madressahs is the spirit of the teachers, for they are the ones who have the drive and conviction in them to teach the students and inspire them to undertake such arduous missions as killing themselves in the name of Islam.

Not only are they highly motivated, they also have the zeal to motivate their students. How one wishes they would use their pedagogic skills to inspire their students to do something better.

After all, they possess the charisma that makes a good teacher. They establish a rapport with their students. They mesmerise them. Having won the battle for their souls, the teachers mould them as they desire. We differ with their goals. In a madressah which subscribes to the ideology of jihad and suicide bombing – not all of them do that, incidentally – the teachers proceed to motivate and inspire their students to resort to violence and become suicide bombers.

Conversely, why can’t our teachers in the secular educational institutions not motivate the students in the same way but for a better cause? By far and large the teachers, especially those staffing the government or the low fee private schools and colleges, treat their work as a job to earn a living. Lack of interest in knowledge and alienated from their students, the teachers fail to inspire and motivate them.

Not all the teachers in the elite educational institutions, who are more professional in their approach and certainly more educated, are inspired either. And fewer still pass on their motivation to their students. Those that do, appear to be concerned with instilling in them the ambition to acquire material wealth and prosperity – success being gauged by the salary package they bring home.

The impact a good teacher makes on his students in terms of developing their values and moral integrity is quite visible. Visit the schools run by the Indus Resource Centre, the Garage School, the Bus School and many others that have been set up by philanthropists with no profit motives. Meet their teachers. Talk to them. For them, it is the joy of teaching that matters. They feel fulfilled by watching their pupils’ personality grow into human beings who care for life and love their fellow creatures. You will be impressed by their spirit of live and let live. Since they also have the skill and zeal to motivate their students – as much as the madressah teacher – they do it for a better cause.

However, they do not need the crutches of religion to teach the young ones about love for one’s fellow beings. Since their approach is secular they view goodness and evil in terms of human life and social justice. For them, a man’s character and nobility is not determined by the god he worships.

They do not have to teach the art of killing people in the name of jihad. In fact life is sacred for them. Their students believe, such as Tanveer the little boy from the Garage School, in the goodness of all religions.

A few years ago when he could read and write with a little effort – today he is visually challenged — describing his school he had written, “We have children from four faiths studying together – Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Christian. We are all human beings and get along very well. We never fight.”

Tanveer went on to learn some Braille at the Ida Rieu School, learnt cane work, joined the Karachi cricket team for the blind and has now been waiting for two years for a job in the handicapped quota. He too was inspired by his teacher at the Garage School, but mercifully not to become a suicide bomber.