Don't Make A Martyr Of Him

Bin Laden's appeal will be reduced if we listen to the voices of the poor

For most of us, martyrdom lies beyond understanding; we recoil from it. Of all the pronouncements of Osama bin Laden, none baffles Westerners, shaped (as they suppose) by rationality and the Enlightenment, as much as his celebration of the martyr's sacrifice. We puzzle over bin Laden's apparent conviction, in a 1996 fatwa, that at the moment of death, a martyr will feel no more pain than if he were being pinched. We giggle nervously at the rewards bin Laden says a martyr will receive in paradise--marriage to 72 virgins, divine intercession on behalf of 70 relatives.

We should try harder....

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!