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Suicide Bombers: Allah's new martyrs


This book, translated from the French, where it was first published in 2002 as Les Noveaux Martyrs d’Allah, makes the claim that an important distinction should be made between two types of jihadist martyrdoms, namely the ‘traditional’ (or perhaps even better ‘modernist’) nationalist Islamic martyrdom, which was aimed at the establishment of Islamic nations and the new global al-Qaeda inspired form of martyrdom which, though sharing some of the characteristics of the national martyrdoms, is fundamentally different. The aim of the new martyrs is to create a transnational ‘neo-umma’, whose features are only vaguely defined. This also constitutes part of a new form of terrorism, hyperterrorism, which does not have a clear political purpose. Khosrokhavar’s book is based on fifteen interviews with convicted violent Islamist in French prisons conducted over a period of eighteen months. These inmates were generally well-integrated and well-educated – ‘products of our world’ more than anything else as Khosrokhavar phrases it. Khosrokhavar’s research is part of a mainly French-based research interest in viewing contemporary Islam, particularly in the West, in terms of individualisation of religious discourse, paradoxically often followed by a growing rigidity of practice. Khosrokhavar’s main message is that al Qaeda inspired religion is truly modern, similar in kin to apocalyptic cults like Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese cult that released sarin gas in the Tokyo subway system in 1995.

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