Elie Wiesel and the Cult of Death

Last night (May 30, 2010) I attended an event featuring Elie Wiesel and Salman Rushdie at Beth Tzedec Synagogue in Toronto. During a discussion about the relatively new phenomenon of ‘suicide bombing’, the conversation turned to the obligatory issue of the ’72 Virgins’ that the martyr is promised in Heaven. Rushdie pointed out that recently ’72 Virgins’ has been translated ’72 Raisins’, much to the delight of the crowd.

But Weisel tried to steer clear of making light of the issue, and suggested something striking: that the modern phenomenon of suicidie bombing – which originated in Israel – is a “death cult”. In fact, he rebuked Rushdie and explained that suicide bombing is not really about “transcendence”, rather, it is about death. All our talk about ’72 virgins’ is really obsfucating what is really at issue, and that is the fast rise of a new cult of death, which is not concerned with metaphysical issues of heavenly transcendence.

It sounded like Wiesel was claiming that suicide bombers are themselves a product of Modernity (or Post-Modernity) rather than a throwback to a time of archaic religousity and metaphysical speculation. 

Given this, perhaps sucidie bombers ought to be thought of less as ‘religious fundamentalists’ and more as ‘nihilists’ who will destruction for its own sake, or what George Grant called “willing for the sake of willing”. In this sense, suicide bombers are our dark twins: both our mothers are represented by the waning of the Aristotelian ‘Final Cause’. (For instance, we find nihilism on the left and the right of our Western political and social spectrum: In the way that Libertarian, Wired reading young technogeeks seek the next best thing for the sake of its novelty, or many on the Left wing of the political spectrum seek revolution for its own sake, or a recent politician who used the all-too-simple  slogan: “change” during his campaign.)

What is most important to me about Wiesel’s rather theoretical point is its political, or policy based, ramifications. If it is the case that suicide bombers are evocative of a (post)Modern “death cult” concerned less with metaphysics/transcendence than the nihilist willing for death and destruction for its own sake, we ought to cease acting as if they are either oppressed martyrs valiantly sacrificing their lives for some higher cause or brainwashed religious fundamentalists. There is no higher cause and there is no God in a “cult of death”; there is only the dark twin of the nihilist “for its own sake-ness” that is so common in the technology saturated (post)Modern cities of the West.


~ by dccohen on June 1, 2010.

2 Responses to “Elie Wiesel and the Cult of Death”

  1. […] Elie Wiesel and the Cult of Death […]

  2. Rushdi & Elie Wiesel are both pro-Israel which makes them fraud

    & 72 heaven-created wives are one of the rewards to a “martyr” who defended his land,soul,family,people & died fighting without fear & didn’t kill their self out of pain or fear during battle but died fighting.

    So even for Islamic scholars suicide bombing on a justifiable target/military aggressor it is controversial because suicide/taking away ones life is prohibited & is a serious sin.

    However scholars feel compassion for Palestinians who found no other means of fighting the inhuman Israeli aggressors/occupiers/ war criminals who killed them & exiled 6 million people off their occupied Palestine.

    In Palestine it was always targeting armed Israeli Killing machine, unlike the cevil targets of 9/11 & other terrorest operations. However, Rushdi & Elie Wiesel wish to mix up these two different actions & people simply because it grants Israel more world compassion & support.

    “Cult of Death” .. ok this is pure nonsense ! by those writers .. we all know that no one kills them selves for the sake of dying.. its explaining water as water.. THEY DIED FOR CERTAIN CAUSES THEY BELIEVED IN.. what was it? could be revenge on USA wars or support of Israel.. but surely not for the sake of dying thats bullshit !

    As for Palestinian fighters for freedom who resorted to suicide bombing after other methods failed: its clear what they died for wither it was suicide missions or normal attacks..

    Attacking civilians remain prohibited in Islam & is never Islamic, because Muslims are not like extremist jews or Israelis who don’t refrain from killing women & children to satisfy their blood thirst.

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