Imagine all the martyrs....

A post by Clayton Cramer titled "The Death Worshippers" has forced me to entertain very peaceful thoughts. Here's Cramer:

A recurring difference between Islam and the West is that Islam worships death. If you think that I am painting with too broad a brush, consider this recent question of textbooks:
As if things weren't crazy enough already in the Middle East, here's the officially sanctioned message in sixth-grade Palestinian textbooks for 11- and 12-year-old kids: "The noble soul has two goals: death and the desire for it."

The goal isn't to build magnificent skyscrapers or write brilliant novels or to work on cures for the world's most lethal diseases. The noble goal for the noble soul is as simple as strapping on a dynamite belt and blowing oneself into a million pieces in an Israeli pizza shop.

The "death-and-the-desire-for-it" line is from a poem by Abd al-Rahim Mahmoud. Along with other writings that glorify child martyrs, the quote is included in "Our Beautiful Language," a standard text for sixth-graders after the Palestinian Liberation Organization took control over education in the Palestinian territories.

As officially stated, the underlying ethos of the Palestinian curriculum is "built on the principle of breeding the individual on the basis of serving society as a whole." Translated, that means breeding kids who believe suicide and murder are noble, who believe it's noble to create a society where the individual reaches his highest stage of development by extinguishing his own individualism, his own existence.

It's Jonestown, writ large, a cult of suicide for the collective, for Palestine. Israel isn't on the maps in the Palestinian textbooks.

Abdullah Qura'an, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, carried a 13-pound bomb in his school bag into a checkpoint near Hablus. He didn't die, because a cell phone rigged to set off the bomb didn't work. The unwitting youngster was told he was carrying car parts.

Shortly thereafter, a 16-year-old suicide bomber, Amar al-Far, outfitted for self-destruction by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, killed three people in an open-air food market in Tel Aviv.

Said the boy's mother: "Why did they choose my son? He was just a child. It's immoral to send someone so young. They should have sent an adult who understands the meaning of his deeds."

The boy's father told of his last encounter with his son: "I was asleep when Amar woke me up. He kissed me and asked for two shekels, 45 cents. He left the house and I went back to sleep."

Cramer also quotes Sam Harris's LA Times piece on the different perceptions of religion as a cause of conflict:
I am here to report that liberals and conservatives respond very differently to the notion that religion can be a direct cause of human conflict.

This difference does not bode well for the future of liberalism.

Concludes Cramer,
It is a rather strange situation where leftists and many liberals, who should have the most to worry about from the increasing dominance of a fiercely homophobic, male chauvinist, anti-freedom of expression, and religiously intolerant worldview, are clearly more afraid of George Bush and Dick Cheney than they are of our common enemy.
There's nothing new about this death cult. Nor is there anything new about the response to it by many Americans. Instead of dealing with reality, people of the pacifist mindset tend to think in terms of utopian denial, and they preach touchy-feeling communitarian nonsense about how we should all learn to get along.

The enemy worships death and wants to kill us, and these people (I can't say "we" because I am not one of them) seem stuck in a permanent replay of John Lennon's "Imagine." It's a major difference in perception, one which will not go away, and I don't need to go far to find it. Just today, for example, Inquirer editor John Timpane opined that women can stop war and violence by withholding sex:

Indeed. The force of the strike lies not really in the withholding of sex; it lies in the heroic protest of women denying themselves something they want, too, to get their men to wake up. "This is our way to say to our spouses that we don't want to be left widows and that our children do not deserve to grow up without a father by their side," said Ruth Macías, 18, mother of two and a leg-crosser.

So there are at least two legs to the response to violence. They have to be crossed at the same time. One is what government can do - and it can do much. Last year, the U.S. violent-crime rate rose a little, but it has been falling for years, thanks to more spending and tougher policies. But the other leg is civic action by you, me, and the other guy. And gal. No one lives apart from the spectacle of human violence; we're all involved simply by being human. And if there's something we can do, we should.

Again, I felt as if I was listening to John Lennon's "Imagine." I could almost imagine the lyrics, floating through my mind as I thought about the reality of suicide bombers.

This philosophical impasse goes to the root of many hopeless disagreements, and a perfect example is the way some people will blame guns for shootings, while others blame the people who did the shooting.

But considering Plato's maxim that an unexamined life is not worth living, for once maybe I should depart from my usual "Imagine" bashing, and try to imagine (hypothetically, at least) what would happen if we actually put into practice real Lennonist proselystization. Perhaps if the suicidal death cultists who want to kill us only listened to the song's lyrics, they'd see the evil of their ways:

Imagine there's no Heaven
Um, 'scuse me, but I see a problem right there. Isn't imagining heaven the whole point of murderous suicidal martyrdom? I'm thinking that maybe the first line might not make it past the censors in countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Hamasstan (aka the "Palestinian Authority"), as well as our close ally Pakistan which harbors bin Laden and Company. (Even in secular Turkey, liberal teacher Michael Dickenson ran into religious objections when he played the song for his English class.) So if we can't get the song to the people who most need it, how will we know whether they'll ever start imagining that there's no Heaven?


Wouldn't that be unimagining Heaven? I mean, isn't Heaven a pretty big part of their existing collective imagination?

I'd hate to think that the ultimate international peace song might be considered blasphemous, and I'm wondering whether my hypothetical goal of converting the imagination of the enemy is even possible in theory, much less in practice.

But I started this, so let's continue to imagine:

It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

Again, this business of no religion, no hell, telling people to imagine that, it really is proselytizing against Islam. And "nothing to kill or die for" -- isn't that a direct attack on the theory of jihad, on martyrdom?
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
"Join" "us"? If that isn't proselytization, then what is?

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
The most hardline Islamic countries not only allow possessions, but they criminalize theft, and even human beings can be treated as chattel. Imagining no possessions, I think, would encourage countenancing wholesale violations of the Shariah, and probably the Koran. More heresy. The only country I can think of which actually put the "no possessions" theory into practice would have been Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. A death cult, to be sure, but not an Islamic one. At least as heretical as it was un-heavenly.
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one
That's the chorus, repeated twice. Clearly, the song is meant as an invitation, and while I see nothing wrong with the idea of promoting its values in all Islamic countries (especially as an alternative to the Islamic death cult), I don't see it receiving wide play. Has it been translated into Arabic?

As a matter of fact, in my quest to be thorough, I did find an mp3 version [link removed], but I can't vouch for the content of the Arabic lyrics. The post in which I found it claims Algerian musicians were murdered in the 1990s for singing similar lyrics, and credits Algerian performer "Khaled" with great courage for singing it.

If it takes that much courage for a single Muslim performer even to sing the lyrics (assuming he did so in Arabic), I think the song (to say nothing of its ideas) has a long way to go in stopping suicidal death cultists.

Hey, at least I tried.

Why does the song say it's easy?

MORE: Much as I try to be fair, it occurs to me that I may not be the right person to apply "Imagine" principles to the logic of jihad, because I don't agree with the lyrics. But perhaps we could imagine a social experiment in which the true-believing imaginers could actually go into the madrassas and teach the children to imagine that there's no heaven. What better way to find out whether the theory works?

UPDATE: Link to song removed with my apologies for linking. (See comment below.)

posted by Eric on 09.21.06 at 09:08 AM


"Ruth Macías, 18, mother of two and a leg-crosser."


Mother of two.


Well, better late than never I guess.

Anonymous   ·  September 21, 2006 6:25 PM

No Heaven, no Hell, no countries -- it sounds like the goal for which so many Communists willingly gave their lives and forced so many tens of millions of the unwilling to give theirs. Peace and paradise, right? C'mon.

Bleepless   ·  September 21, 2006 8:45 PM

I don't have any specifics at my fingertips, but I concur that performers of the Algerian music of the variety known as Rai have indeed been targetted by the Islamists.

triticale   ·  September 21, 2006 10:13 PM
Much as I try to be fair, it occurs to me that I may not be the right person to apply "Imagine" principles to the logic of jihad, because I don't agree with the lyrics.
You can say that again. You're not the right person to comment on Imagine, nor are you the right person (in the sense of someone who knows what they're talking about) to talk about Islam, jihad or any such subject. And "fair?" In yr dreams.

First, I object to yr condescending description of the post I wrote about Khaled & Noa's version of 'Imagine.' What do you mean I "claim" that rai musicians were killed in Algeria for their secularism? You don't believe me? Or are you just too lazy to do a simple Google search to confirm what I wrote?

And what do you mean by you "can't vouch for the content of the lyrics?" Do you think there might be some veiled pro-Al Qaeda references lurking in them? I can vouch for the authenticity of Noa's original Hebrew lyrics & I have no doubt whatsoever that Khaled's lyrics too are faithful to the song. Too bad you're so full of suspicion that you can't give Khaled a break.

Why do you wonder at the courage it takes for a Muslim to sing such a song? Have you ever risked your life for an idea? And I don't mean risking one's life in metaphorical terms. I mean being willing to see someone put a bullet in yr brain for holding ideas some nuts find revolting enough to kill you? I thought not.

So give him a break why don't you.

Finally, you completely misunderstand the song. It's not meant as an anti-jihadist anthem. It's meant as an attack on all religions including yours (if you have one) & mine. Lennon would be disgusted with your slanted analysis. He was a universalist, not an anti-jihadi wingnut.

I do not allow blogs to host links to files on my site as you have done as it bleeds my bandwidth no end. No one at this site will be able to access yr link to my mp3 file. Though they can listen to it if they visit my site.

Richard Silverstein   ·  September 30, 2006 5:31 AM

Richard, thanks for coming. I did not dispute your claim that rai performers were killed, however. I only repeated that it was your claim. And how could I vouch for the content of the lyrics if I don't understand Arabic? I did find myself wondering whether the references to "no heaven" and "no religion" made it through the translation, but I don't know. As you properly gathered, I'm not a fan of the "Imagine" song, as I don't believe in socialism or pacifism (we disagree, obviously).

But I didn't mean to condescend to your post; if anything I'd enjoy seeing "Imagine" getting a lot more play in the Mideast than it does. That anyone would be killed for singing it or for singing anything like it is appalling. Far from wondering about anyone's courage for singing it under those circumstances, I would admire it. (I don't have to agree with an idea to admire the courage of someone who risks his life to voice it.)

Sorry about the link to the mp3 file. (I disabled it.)

Eric Scheie   ·  September 30, 2006 11:52 AM

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