06 June, 2008


The Guardian posted this question on their website:

At the trial in Guantánamo of the 9/11 plotters, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has declared his readiness to become a martyr. So if he is found guilty, should he be executed - and so granted his wish?

To state the obvious: this is not an objective question.

Here is the logic of this question played out in my head (evil man included):

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did something awful and does not deserve dignity. (The only picture I’ve ever seen of him is in that while t-shirt looking beat up and haggard.) In the court of public opinion we have been told to dislike and hate him.

Mr. Mohammed wants to become a martyr as his religion spells out he can become…

By killing him we’re giving him what he wants…

So, should we evilly foil his plan by not allowing him to die but rot in prison?

Bwa ha ha haaaa!

(Is it surprising that over 80% of people answered “no” to the Guardian’s question?)

The question should have been done in two parts:

-- Do you feel that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, charged with being a 9/11 organizer, deserves to be executed for his crimes?

Next page:

-- Mr. Mohammed had publically stated he desires the death penalty in order to become a martyr. Does this change your view of his being executed?

It would be interesting to see how the yes/no ratio changed between the two statements. Does our view of justice in this case change if we know the prisoner wants to die? I am still fuzzy on the death penalty for a variety of reasons I won’t get into here. Mr. Mohammed and those being tried with him have admitted their guilt, refused counsel, and are all willing to be martyred.

On one side he did something wrong. He helped plan and carry out attacks on innocent people that left thousands dead.

On the other side – taking out the emotion towards his actions – hasn’t the claim for martyrdom been carried out by other religions before? How many Christians have died for their faith? At its core that’s all he wants. He wants to die for Islam. He has read the Koran and believes this end is justified and desired. He has stood up for Allah and wants to join him in paradise. We cannot judge him on that. Christians have done it for centuries (11 of the 12 disciples were martyred for Jesus.).

But in the US we are told that Islam is evil – Mr. Mohammed is evil – therefore we will do everything that he does not want!

I don’t know how to feel here. If he is willing to accept responsibility for what he did and is okay with dying then let him. We cannot deny the punishment we were willing to give because that’s what the prisoner wants. Mr. Mohammed is not the first defendant to demand the death penalty and he won’t be the last.