Blowing themselves up for raisins, not virgins

I heard this well-documented etymological error explained again on Fareed Zakaria's CNN show, which told me that a lot of well-informed people aren't aware of it, and I wanted to be sure that my fellow heretics are.

Armies of crazed, angry young Muslim men, who never had a job, an education, or a date, are blowing themselves up every day because they expect a paradise of 72 virgins, but the holy text uses a word that could very likely mean "raisins," which makes sense -- fruit was such a delicacy that who wouldn't die for a box of Sun-Maids?  (That sounds like a bizarre ad slogan.)

As a linguist, I understand about multiple translations, alternate translations, ambiguities, and the difficulty of preserving and understanding ancient texts.  As a humanist, I find it tragic and incomprehensible that so many would die for a fantasy, raisins or virgins.  I can see which translation the imams preferred.

Here's more information: ;

PS. And what about the female suicide bombers?  What's in it for them?

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Comment by Alan Perlman on May 20, 2016 at 12:47pm

BTW, what's the big deal with virginity?  I would prefer experienced. women.

Gary, thanks for thoughtful comments.  I still marvel at the mindset that sustained the the 9/11 hijackers through their long prep period.  Those guys were motivated by something powerful, whatever it was.

Comment by Loren Miller on May 20, 2016 at 8:13am

Well, there's also the matter of WHAT 72 virgins you get.  I mean, considering the trickster which Allah / Yahweh apparently is, we could easily be talking about:

Comment by Gary Clouse on May 20, 2016 at 7:56am

the "promise of 72 virgins" as the motivation for suicide attacks is a well known bit of anti arab propaganda. 

  There are many different motivations for suicide bombing and the promise  of getting laid in the hereafter is pretty low on the list. In general, suicide bombers fall into two categories: Those with nothing to live for and those with everything to die for. There is a bit of overlap.

   In Israel, the typical woman suicide bomber profile fits the "nothing to live for categories.  Usually these are women who have seen their husbands, siblings and children killed or jailed by Israelis, witnessed their homes and belongings razed by Israeli demolition crews. They're disposessed, suicidal and easily recruited by terrorist groups who convinced the their death should have meaning.

  Other reason for suicide bombing include promises that the bomber's family will be taken care of, That there is honor and valor in giving one's life to harm an enemy

  And there are unwilling bombers, usually men abducted  from the street, locked  into an explosive vest with a dead-man switch, pushed out of a cab at a market, the vest armed by pulling a grenade style pin. Then its just a wait for the bombers grip to weaken. 

Comment by Alan Perlman on April 26, 2016 at 11:43am

Good suggestion, Michael.  I can almost hear the imam announcing it: "Ahhhh, you know, guys, about that part where we promised you 72 virgins...well, we're going to have to make a sight word change.  Turns out that the holy book really says 'raisins,' so that's what you'll be getting instead of virgins when the bomb goes off.  Just a small tweak, really, hope nobody minds.  Now, if you'll open your Qurans to page..."

Comment by Michael Penn on April 26, 2016 at 9:36am

The female suicide bombers might be promised 72 virgin males, but why would they care or how would they possibly know? On the other hand, females are looked at as a commodity like a full bottle of wine. Men don't like wine that has been "opened."

The only way to avoid this type of sexism is to  use the word "raisins" and make it fare for both sexes.



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