They're NOT "Martyrs", Dammit!
Letters to the Editor
Re: The Making of a Mumbai Terrorist
You’ve done it again.
By referring to thugs like Mohammad Amir Ajmal Qasab and his ilk as “martyrs”, you do to the English language what they did to the innocent commuters in Victoria Terminus.
A true martyr is a victim, not a perpetrator. A true martyr wants to live, not to die. A true martyr is helpless to prevent his fate, not someone who could walk away at any time. A true martyr is on the receiving end of an unjust, repressive, intolerant regime, not someone who’s trying to create one. Most true martyrs suffer long, agonizing deaths, not the quick, painless ones favored by suicide bombers.
Most salient of all, a true martyr dies alone; he doesn’t take scores of helpless, unthreatening men, women, and children with him.
You have a clear-cut alternative available. There is undoubtedly some word that these butchers use to refer to themselves. You could simply cite that word in the original Arabic, rather than continue to use your mistranslation of it to sully the memory of real martyrs (for whom we should feel sorrow, sympathy, and respect) by lumping them together with these deranged criminals (for whom we should feel nothing but contempt and loathing).