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WASHINGTON – What makes Palestinian suicide bombers tick? Not the Koran, media pundits are quick to say.

They maintain they are martyrs for a political, not religious, cause and are only resorting to such violent extremes to defend against an oppressive Israeli military. The media romanticize the heinous bombings as the desperate struggle of the downtrodden.

Given the alarming toll of innocent Israelis (not to mention Americans) recently slaughtered by Islamic suicide attacks, this is a particularly noxious batch of politically correct swill to swallow.

And those in the media who know better should be ashamed of themselves for peddling it. They are nothing but professional liars. Others too lazy to read the Koran to independently verify the spin of “moderate” Muslim scholars are guilty of intellectual malpractice.

If you read the Koran (the Muslim-approved Abdullah
Yusuf Ali translation), you discover that martyrdom is
the only guaranteed ticket to Paradise for Muslims.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to a former radical Shiite Muslim tell it.

“The only way Muslims can have assurance of salvation and eternal life is by becoming a martyr for the cause of Islam,” said Reza F. Safa, author of “Inside Islam.”

“To a Muslim,” he added, “dying and killing for the cause of Islam is not only an honor, but also a way of pleasing Allah.”

That explains how a Palestinian grandmother could proudly pose with her beaming teen-age grandson for a final photograph knowing that just hours later he would strap himself with explosives and eviscerate Israeli “infidels” – and himself – in the name of Allah. This adoring old woman was actually celebrating the boy’s imminent death, as if he were about to cross the stage at his high-school graduation ceremony. But to her, a death certificate sealed by Allah meant more than any diploma. She said she was happy – overjoyed that her grandson would soon disembowel himself – because she knew he would be instantly transported to a better place.

Where does she get such faith? From the Koran.

Meanwhile, the pubescent grandson dreamed of the carnal pleasures awaiting him in Paradise – “Companions with beautiful, big and lustrous eyes … virgin-pure and undefiled” – just as the Muslim prophet Muhammad promised in the Koran (Surah 56:22,35-36).

And such Koranic promises explain how the father of another young Palestinian, who set off a bomb on a crowded commuter bus, could gush, “My son will go to heaven” – as if he had just scored the winning touchdown at the homecoming game in front of Ivy League scouts. Most fathers would be bawling their eyes out over such a senseless loss.

Safa says local Muslim clerics recite to such young men the verses from the Koran that promise the reward of Paradise, and all its oddly non-spiritual perks, if they die while fighting the “unbelievers” – Jews and Christians – in the name of Allah.

“‘Are you ready for martyrdom?’” the young man is asked. “‘Yes, yes,’ he repeats,” Safa said, explaining the ritual. “He is then given the oath on the Koran.”

“These young men leave the meeting with one determination: to kill,” he said.

Of course, the same media pundits who like to pretend Palestinians are fighting a political war for freedom and are only using suicide as a “cheap defense weapon,” argue that the Koran forbids suicide. They claim clerics twist the meaning of the salient passages in the Koran to imply martyrdom paves the way to Paradise.

But don’t be fooled. Typical of Islam’s apologists, they are merely cherry picking verses to try to make the Koran seem less violent than it is.

Yes, the Koran tells Muslims not to “kill or destroy yourselves” (Surah 4:29) – but only when doing so is outside the cause of Allah. Dying for Allah is not viewed as a waste of life.

In fact, the Koran encourages it. Consider these verses:

“When ye meet the unbelievers, smite at their necks,” Muhammad commands in Surah 47:4. “Those who are slain in the way of Allah – he will never let their deeds be lost.”

“Soon will he guide them and improve their condition,” he continues in Surah 47:5, “and admit them to the Garden (of Paradise), which he has announced for them.”

And look at Surah 4:74: “To him who fighteth in the cause of Allah – whether he is slain or gets victory – soon shall we give him a reward of great (value).”

And Surah 3:157: “If ye are slain, or die, in the way
of Allah, forgiveness and mercy from Allah are far
better than all they could amass.”

Surah 3:140-143, moreover, glorifies “martyrs” who
“enter Heaven” and, at the same time, ribs those who
“flinch” from death. That’s followed by Surah 3:170,
which says “martyrs” — suicidal killers who “die in
their cause” — don’t really die, nor should their
loved ones “grieve” for them.

Maybe I’m just an ignorant “kaffir” who is misreading
the Koran, which I’ve read cover to cover in two
translations now.

Or maybe not. Translator Yusuf Ali, respected the
world-over by Muslims, reads it the same way in his
commentaries.

In footnote 469, he says: “Dying in doing your duty is
the best means of reaching Allah’s mercy.”

“Martyrdom is the sacrifice of life in the service of
Allah. Its reward is therefore even greater than that
of an ordinarily good life,” Ali says in footnote
2839. “The martyr’s sins are forgiven by the very act
of martyrdom.”

So in the Muslim faith, the reward for death in the
cause of Allah is greater than good works or faith in
general. That’s what the Koran teaches, the book that
Ali says is “the duty of every Muslim — man, woman or
child — to read.”

But what of the wives and children left widowed and
fatherless, or parents left sonless, by these men of
fanatical faith, these duty-bound suicide bombers,
these glorified martyrs?

“The dear ones have no cause to grieve at the death of
the martyrs,” Ali says in footnote 478. “Rather have
they cause to rejoice.”

Like the Palestinian grandmother and father mentioned
above.

But cultural relativists among the punditry, such as Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman, aren’t convinced.

Goodman recently insisted that the Palestinian suicide bombers are merely “desperate” to improve their lot, deluded by the “despair” of their impoverished existence. Some politicians call them “freedom fighters.” Over the weekend, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell even compared PLO leader Yasser Arafat to Nelson Mandela.

But if Palestinians are deluded into carrying out such wicked acts, it’s not a function of their social or economic condition. It’s a function of their faith.

They are deluded, quite simply, by their holy book, which teaches them to “fight unbelievers (Jews) who are near to you” (Surah 9:123) for the cause of Allah.

You never hear of Jewish or Christian suicide bombers for the simple reason the Bible does not encourage murder-suicide in the name of God. The Koran does.

Still not convinced?

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria, which according to Safa has helped the Palestinians against the Israelis, has this as its slogan:

“The Koran is our constitution, the prophet is our guide; Death for the glory of Allah is our greatest ambition.”

Greater than land or voting rights. Greater than family or love. Above all, death. This is the enemy Ariel Sharon faces. This, sadly, is now our enemy, too.

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