This video is doing the rounds on Facebook. In it, with a chilling smile on her face, a "Palestinian" mother chats with a reporter about how she hopes her son will grow up to be a suicide bomber. She talks about how she considers death to be "normal" and how all her people, including children, hope for martyrdom and are unafraid of death in the cause they serve. That cause, she makes clear, is the total destruction of the Jewish state of Israel and the complete takeover of Jerusalem by the Palestinian Arabs. The worst part of it is that the conversation takes place while her child is being medically treated by the very Jewish people she is hoping he will grow up and kill. (Note: It seems to me to be possible that the video is mis-labeled as far as timing. It may be a scene from the documentary Precious Life, which is several years old. See this story. If so, the reporter claims that the mother gradually changed her mind about the value of human life and even came to hope for peace with Israel in the course of the filming. I haven't been able to verify that the video is indeed a snippet from that movie, but it seems likely, as the dialogue quoted is similar.)
As I listened to her, I was struck by the fact that in its glorification of so-called "martyrs"--suicide bombers--Islam is taking an important Christian idea and twisting it. No lie, of course, is so powerful as the lie that starts with truth and then corrupts that truth. The truth is that we should be willing to give up our lives for a cause greater than ourselves. Christians teach their children this as well. The hymn "Faith of Our Fathers" says, speaking of the heroes of old, "And truly blest would be our fate, if we, like them, should die for Thee. Faith of our fathers, holy faith! We will be true to thee till death."
But Christian martyrdom could not be more different from Muslim "martyrdom." Christian martyrdom consists in refusing to deny Christ or in carrying out some noble task such as missions, even if this means that one is killed by one's enemies. Christian martyrs going back to Stephen ask God to forgive their enemies, in this following our Lord Jesus Christ's prayer on the cross.
It is a wicked perversion of the desire for transcendence to admire as martyrs those whose entire goal is to kill innocent civilians and who kill themselves in the process. To teach children to grow up to be "martyrs" of this type is an abuse of their innocence.
Islam is a counterfeit religion, and here we see one aspect of its fakery: Islam counterfeits Christian martyrdom and harnesses, in the service of murder, the human desire to give ultimate service to a transcendent cause.
There is an apologetic point to the contrast as well. If you do much work in Christian apologetics at all, it is guaranteed that sooner or later someone will dismiss the disciples' willingness to die for their testimony by saying, "A lot of people are willing to die for what they believe," instancing suicide bombers, Japanese kamikaze pilots, and who knows what else. Most discouraging of all is when that sort of flippant dismissal comes from a fellow Christian who, for whatever reason, wants to dismiss the historical case for Christianity as weak.
Not only did the apostles not commit murder like Muslim suicide bombers, not only did they not die in war, like Japanese pilots, not only were they not under the spell of a charismatic leader who urged them to suicide, like the followers of Jim Jones. Beyond all of that, they were willing to die not for an ideology but for their testimony to specific, empirical facts that they had heard and seen for themselves. They did not die, nor did they risk death, merely for a feeling, merely for a desire to serve something beyond themselves. Their cause was not a political policy nor even a religion but rather a Person whom they had seen alive again after his death. Their cause, to put it as bluntly as possible, was plain fact, fact so clear and undeniable to them that they could not deny it on pain of being deceivers themselves. The relevance of this point to the evidential value of their testimony would be difficult to stress too strongly.
We must pray for those who worship death, like this "Palestinian" mother. We should also pray for her son, that he learns the truth of the Gospel. Let us offer to our own children the true concept of martyrdom, the true willingness to die for our faith, and let us teach them the difference between that and counterfeits. And let us thank God for the apostles, who offered their lives that we might know the truth, and that the truth might set us free.