On April 17, 1986, a pregnant Irish chambermaid named Anne Mary Murphy presented herself at London’s Heathrow Airport, an El Al plane ticket to Tel Aviv in hand. Her ultimate destination was Jordan, where she planned to meet the family of her fiance, a journalist named Nezar Hindawi.
Murphy never made it on the plane. El Al security agents searching her luggage found disguised Semtex explosives connected to a calculator that Hindawi had fashioned into a bomb trigger. If his plot had succeeded, more than 360 people would have died — including his (unwitting) girlfriend and unborn baby. A judge later described the Syrianbacked crime — for which Hindawi is serving a 45-year jail sentence — as “about as foul and as horrible a crime as could possibly be imagined.”
Which goes to show how little imagination we infidels had back then. Here is the lead paragraph of an article from last Friday’s New York Times: “BAGHDAD — At least 80 people died … in three bombings, one by a female suicide bomber in Baghdad who, Iraqi officials said, held a young child’s hand as she set off her explosives among a group of women and children receiving emergency food aid.”
Hindawi, despicable as he was, at least followed the perverse, anti-Semitic moral code of his metier by targeting a high-value Israeli target full of hated Jews. The Baghdad bomber, on the other hand, slaughtered fellow Muslims — including a small child whom one presumes to have been the woman’s own daughter. Rather than a symbol of Zionism, the target here was a rabble of hungry mothers and children trying to feed themselves.
Not that killing and maiming small children has ever been taboo among Muslim terrorists. Samir Kuntar, a Druze Muslim who murdered a four-yearold Israeli girl in 1979 by pounding her head against a rock, became a hero in his native Lebanon and many other parts of the Arab world. The Taliban pour acid on the faces of girls. In 2004, a Chechen terrorist attack on a Russian school resulted in the deaths of 186 children.
Yet hideous as these crimes may be, the victims were the children of others. The urge to protect one’s own offspring is a hard-wired human instinct on par with self-survival. What kind of lunatic perversion of Islam could cause someone to override it?
Even on this score, the escalation of evil over the last 23 years is impressive: Hindawi’s child was not yet born — and his plot involved murder at long range. The self-immolating Baghdad mother, on the other hand, was actually squeezing her toddler’s hand at the time of detonation.
The amazing thing is that most readers probably had never heard of this mother’s gruesome act until they got to the third paragraph of my column. And here, we get to perhaps the most depressing difference between this crime and Hindawi’s.
The Hindawi plot was treated as a stop-the-presses event: The Toronto Star ran no fewer than four front-page stories on the subject in 1986 — even though no one died. In the case of last week’s maternal carnage, on the other hand, the news appeared only on page four of the Times. (Canadian newspapers either buried the story, or ignored it completely.) What does it say about the world we live in that a woman blowing up her own child (and dozens of other innocents besides) for the glory of Allah barely counts as news?
Though it’s often hard to tell, Islam, Judaism and Christianity all arise from the same Abrahamic roots. And those familiar with Genesis 22 will know that the God Abraham served had well-expressed views on filicide. How, I wonder, do you say “Lay not thine hand upon the lad” in Arabic?