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.