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Letters to the Editor
Martyrdom Distinction
Psychiatric News
Volume 40 Number 8 page 62-62

This letter is in response to the article "Martyrdom May Be Modern Crisis, But Origins Go Back Centuries" in the March 18 issue.

There is an important distinction that is not addressed in the article on the psychological roots of "martyrdom" in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Although there is, indeed, a tradition of martyrdom in both Judaism and Christianity, the act of martyrdom did not include deliberate harm to others. In the Jewish tradition, those—like Rabbi Akiva—who gave up their lives rather than be forced to abandon their faith—did so only under duress and without placing the lives of others in direct danger. The acts of so-called suicide bombers, in which many innocent lives are often lost, should not be subsumed under traditional understandings of" martyrdom" in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

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