Use of the word 'Martyrdom'

Does the word ‘martyrdom’ nowadays mean just extreme suffering?
I was confused by this quote
“This is a plot that involved martyrdom and explosives” and focused on the “tubes that connect Jersey and lower Manhattan,” said FBI Assistant Director Mark J. Mershon.
This came from
about the NYC terrorist plot.

I thought when he said that he was implying that suicide bombers were martyrs. Maybe he was talking about extreme suffering.

In the case of terrorists blowing themselves up, I don’t see how extreme suffering comes into play, especially since you’re bringing it upon yourself, but that is the definition. IMO, a terrorist that kills himself and others, a martyr seems to translate to “hero”, for those that approve.

Generally, a martyr is one who dies for his or her (religious) beliefs. Since suicide bombers tend to die with their victims, the word martyr has been applied to them by those who support their beliefs. As used by the police or other government agencies, it would be an expression of how the bombers hoped to be perceived by the groups associated with the bombers’ goals, not an expression that the police or authorities support those goals.

A statement that the plot involved martyrdom is simply a recognition that it included a suicide attack.

A martyr is one that suffers and/or dies to protect another life. A murderer is one that takes innocent life. Calling suicide bombers “maytrs” does not make them so.


So what? Martyr simply comes from the Greek word for witness. Someone who witnesses for their faith, generally in the context of dying for their beliefs, gets called a martyr by those who share the faith. Their is nothing in the word martyr that includes a meaning of “protecting life.”

I think that the suicide bombers who have infected the Middle East in the last few years and their compatriots who have moved beyond the Middle East to other places are deluded fools with occasional monsters among them. My perception of them does not change the perception that their supporters hold.

In the context of the OP, the word martyrdom was used to indicate that the plotters were prepared to die to carry out their plans. Regardless of your personal reaction to such plans or persons, you simply do not have the power to change the language so that the word only means what you want it to mean when you want it to.

Just to be waggish, I like to refer to the bombers as “homicide martyrs”. :cool:

This is a unique definition I have seen no where else. How about the early Christian martyrs who were persecuted for their faith alone?

Who were they protecting?

According to Thomas Cahill, at least, the early Irish Christians recognized three types of martyrdom: Red Martyrdom, dying for Christ’s sake; Green martyrdom, a grueling very ascetic type of monasticism; and White Martyrdom, the complete surrender to Christ, and the abandonment of all earthly attachments.

The common thread seems to be suffering for faith’s sake. The self-sacrifice of the suicide bomber seems to be a perversion of this ideal, since the goal is not to witness for faith, but rather to kill a lot of people.