G. Sampath reviews Talal Asad's book on suicide bombing in The Hindu:
This is one book you may want to avoid reading on a plane. Its title is On Suicide Bombing. And the author is a Muslim, with an Arab name: Talal Asad.
I came to it via a lecture by the American philosopher, Judith Butler. Her subject was ‘the human condition’. She talks about the questions Asad poses in his book: Can suicide bombing be thought? What resources do we need in order to think it? I was intrigued enough by Butler’s remarks to get a copy of the book.
Asad is an anthropologist by training. As an Arab Muslim in American academia, he is uniquely placed to offer an anthropological perspective on the discourse of terrorism in liberal democracies. ‘On Suicide Bombing’ is a collection of lectures he delivered in 2006. It has three chapters: ‘Terrorism’, ‘Suicide terrorism’ and ‘Horror at suicide terrorism’.
Asad begins with the most spectacular instance of suicide terrorism in recent history, the September 11, 2001, attack in the U.S., which sparked worldwide outrage, and rightly so. The mass killing of innocents is simply wrong and condemnable. There is nothing to debate here.
Nonetheless, Asad wants us to temporarily reserve our judgement, so that we could arrive at an understanding of the moral ground from which we pass judgment.