In This Review

My Life Is a Weapon: A Modern History of Suicide Bombing
My Life Is a Weapon: A Modern History of Suicide Bombing
By Christoph Reuter
Princeton University Press, 2004, 240 pp

Translated from the German and updated through 2003, this short book surveys suicide bombing worldwide, treating examples from the Muslim world-Iran's suicide battalions, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the fateful "culture of death" gripping Israel and the Palestinians, and that Islamic International, al Qaeda-as well as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka and the earlier Japanese kamikazes. Fine first-hand reporting is combined with a sensitive effort to explain. Suicide bombers are not usually the most downtrodden or uneducated, and they are not brainwashed (although they do undergo elaborate preparation rituals). In his chapter on the "feud of fatwas," Reuter shows how even establishment ulama have watered down strict Islamic injunctions against suicide, not to mention the equally strict Islamic rules governing combat. That suicide bombing may die out as circumstances change is cautiously suggested by his discussion of Iran a generation after the Iran-Iraq War and of Hezbollah after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.