Authorities in Afghanistan have pardoned a fourteen-year-old would-be suicide bomber named Rafiqullah. The boy was recruited by the Taleban from a religious school in Pakistan. Trained in the techniques of suicide bombing, Rafiqullah was taken across the border to Afghanistan in June, given a vest full of explosives, and ordered to kill himself and the governor of Afghanistan's Khost province, Arsala Jamal.
The attack was foiled by Afghan authorities. Governor Jamal recommended leniency for the boy. "The enemy of Islam deceived him," said Mr. Jamal. "He was brainwashed." Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, said the world is faced with a "terrifying truth. . .the sending of a Muslim child to carry out a suicide attack."
In June, the Taleban placed an explosive vest on a six-year-old boy in an unsuccessful attempt to use the boy as a human bomb to kill coalition troops. U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the use of child suicide bombers makes horrifyingly clear the Taleban's disregard for human life:
"It's certainly clear that the Taleban targets Afghan civilians, including children, in its campaigns of terror. They've engaged in all kinds of heinous behavior; from beheadings and suicide bombings and abductions. And certainly, these kind of stories of children being coerced into working for the Taleban or, in fact, even being coerced into becoming suicide bombers is not unheard or unusual."
As the Taleban's tactics become more barbaric, public tolerance of such violence is rapidly decreasing. A new study by the Pew Research Center shows that Muslims around the world increasingly reject suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians by Islamic extremists. According to the survey, today only nine percent of Pakistanis believe suicide bombings can ever be justified, a decline from forty-one percent who believed this in 2004.
Muslims are rejecting violence for good reasons. One is that, as President George W. Bush says the majority of the victims of Muslim extremists are Muslims:
"In Afghanistan, they have targeted teachers for beatings and murder. In Iraq, they killed a young boy, and then booby-trapped his body so it would explode when his family came to retrieve him. They put children in the backseat of a car so they could pass a security checkpoint, and then blew up the car with the children still inside."
"This enemy is not the true face of Islam," said President Bush, "this enemy is the face of hatred."