Polygamy and Suicide Bombing
Why most suicide bombers are Muslims
From Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature
By Alan S. Miller, Ph.D., and Satoshi Kanazawa, Ph.D.
Psychology Today Magazine July/Aug 2007
Most suicide bombers are Muslim.
Suicide missions are not always religiously motivated, but according to Oxford University sociologist Diego Gambetta, editor of Making Sense of Suicide Missions, when religion is involved, the attackers are always Muslim. Why? The surprising answer is that Muslim suicide bombing has nothing to do with Islam or the Quran (except for two lines). It has a lot to do with sex, or, in this case, the absence of sex.
What distinguishes Islam from other major religions is that it tolerates polygyny. By allowing some men to monopolize all women and altogether excluding many men from reproductive opportunities, polygyny creates shortages of available women. If 50 percent of men have two wives each, then the other 50 percent don't get any wives at all.
So polygyny increases competitive pressure on men, especially young men of low status. It therefore increases the likelihood that young men resort to violent means to gain access to mates. By doing so, they have little to lose and much to gain compared with men who already have wives. Across all societies, polygyny makes men violent, increasing crimes such as murder and rape, even after controlling for such obvious factors as economic development, economic inequality, population density, the level of democracy, and political factors in the region.
However, polygyny itself is not a sufficient cause of suicide bombing. Societies in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean are much more polygynous than the Muslim nations in the Middle East and North Africa. And they do have very high levels of violence. Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from a long history of continuous civil wars—but not suicide bombings.
The other key ingredient is the promise of 72 virgins waiting in heaven for any martyr in Islam. The prospect of exclusive access to virgins may not be so appealing to anyone who has even one mate on earth, which strict monogamy virtually guarantees. However, the prospect is quite appealing to anyone who faces the bleak reality on earth of being a complete reproductive loser.
It is the combination of polygyny and the promise of a large harem of virgins in heaven that motivates many young Muslim men to commit suicide bombings. Consistent with this explanation, all studies of suicide bombers indicate that they are significantly younger than not only the Muslim population in general but other (nonsuicidal) members of their own extreme political organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. And nearly all suicide bombers are single.
Psychology Today Magazine July/Aug 2007
This letter came in response to the article above (which was featured in the Covenant Connection of August 2007) from a member of the First Covenant Foundation.
Re: "Polygamy and Suicide Bombing." I thought it was inaccurate . . . I am not say that polygamy is the ideal state of things. But to make it seem as though polygamy itself is wrong slanders anyone in the past that has done it.
Part of the article said "If 50 percent of men have two wives each, then the other 50 percent don\'t get any wives at all." This is just bad statistics. There isn't a 50-50 ratio of men and women on this planet. And, at least in the west, we have a problem of women who are desperate to have a husband, and men fooling around with more than one woman, and still there isn't a shortage problem here.
Part of the article says "What distinguishes Islam from other major religions is that it tolerates polygyny. By allowing some men to monopolize all women and altogether excluding many men from reproductive opportunities, polygyny creates shortages of available women." This implies that polygyny causes a shortage of available women, which is a non sequitur, i.e., it doesn't logically follow. It is like saying that because men lust, women are raped. On the surface it may seem to make sense, but the logic is way oversimplified. It is more factual to say that when men can't handle their lust, ONE possible outcome is rape, since there are other possiblities. The same is true for polygyny. Polygyny is no more wrong than lust, but it is how it is implemented and used, or misused, which causes problems.
The article creates a one-sided negative view of polygamy which then over-generalizes that narrow, biased conclusion. . . It insults ALL those in the past who practised it, including people in the Tanakh. It doesn't matter what excuses people give afterwards, no matter if it is the arguments of the Sages or the rationale of the rational: because the greats of old did it, they are just as bad as the Muslim who misuses it.
Overall, the article was sloppy in that respect: painting a negative picture of ANY polygamy just to have an argument against the Muslims. It could have been so much better in much more accurate terms than the overgeneralizing and distorted way it was done. Argue against Muslim doctrine, that is brilliant. But use accuracy, not something that is inherently illogical and that would only preach to the choir.
Again, just to clarify, just because I, in some way, defend some forms of polygamy, it doesn't mean that I favor it myself. It simply means that there is an idea, a concept, that I have been discussing and studying which has been distorted and condemned for all the wrong reasons.