Mariam Farhat, a 56 year old mother, will be running alongside her male colleagues in the upcoming January elections for the Palestinian parliament, and, by all accounts, she will easily win a seat, due to her enormous popularity among the Palestinians. At first glance, this might seem like good news: a Muslim female who has the will to play an active role in the future of her country, and who is supported in her ambitions by the male-dominated political party to which she belongs. But, unfortunately, the party that is backing her is the terrorist organization Hamas, and her popularity is based on her well-deserved reputation as "the mother of martyrs."
Mariam Farhat got her nickname because three of her sons died either during an attack on Israeli settlers in Gaza or else while preparing for such an attack. Yet a good bit of her immense popularity must be attributed to a video that Hamas is using as part of its electoral campaign -- a video in which Mrs. Farhat is shown advising her son Mohammed on how to kill Israelis, and in which she herself is seen toting a gun, like a Palestinian Ma Barker. Mohammed, by the way, was just seventeen -- not old enough to buy cigarettes in the USA.
Mother's tactical advice must have been first-rate, because Mohammed was able to kill five Israeli settlers before he was himself whisked away to join the ranks of the martyrs in paradise. No wonder she is seen as "a sure vote-winner," as the writer of a Reuters news story breathlessly reported. Who could resist a woman who has happily sacrificed three sons to the cause of wiping Israel off the map, and who still has three more sons left to give the same sacred cause?
After all, there is no question in Mariam Farhat's mind that what we Westerners call "the peace process" will cause martyrdom to go out of style any time soon. "The Jihadist project completes the political one and the political project cannot be completed without Jihad," she is quoted as saying. So, who knows: perhaps in the coming years, the mural in her room that shows the faces of her three fallen boys will be graced with portraits of her remaining sons. How much prouder she will be then.
To many of us, Mariam Farhat must be like a figure from another world; as, indeed, she is. In America, mothers today don't want their sons even playing with squirt guns or spending their recreational time shooting at electronic images on their plasma TV screens.
Not long ago, at the local Target department store, I heard a woman berating her eight or nine year old boy because he had asked her to buy him a toy gun. The poor kid looked so crushed and miserable that I seized the opportunity to offer unsolicited advice. I explained to the woman that my parents had given me a nifty toy machine gun, perched on a tripod, when I was about her son's age, yet I had not grown up to become a mass murderer, though I did spend one wonderful summer mowing down my friends in my backyard. The boy's face brightened, but the mother dashed his hopes by assuring me that it was really none of my business -- and, of course, she was right. It wasn't any of my business, and I should have kept my mouth shut. But that recognition on my part did not stop me from reflecting on the brief encounter I had had with the woman and her son.
What happens to a society where moms forbid their boys to play with toy guns? Especially if this society is living in a world where there are moms like Mariam Farhat who are willing to offer their boys pointers on how to kill people with real ones?
Those who believe that we all want the same things should also reflect on this tale of two mothers. We Americans cannot but look upon Mariam Farhat as a fanatic, a madwomen, a fury intent on offering her own sons up to the Moloch known as Jihad. Yet she will take her seat in the Palestinian parliament, in a democratic election in which she is sure to be the people's choice -- a people who see in her a national symbol to be proud of, and not a symptom of a profound pathology that should make all decent Palestinians hang their heads in shame.