The logo for the Religion and Ethics in War and Peace-Making Programme depicts the Biblical figure Samson, destroying the Philistine temple. In the process, he killed himself – and the people worshipping in the Temple – but also created a myth which has divided Christians, Jews and Muslims over the millenia.
Samson’s final act has been lauded and deplored, compared to the self-sacrifice of Christ and also likened to the desperate last act of a ‘suicide terrorist’. While the positive reading of Samson’s act lay behind the common use of like images as a motif in medieval art and church architecture, medieval critics of Samson’s vengeance picked up on strands in the Biblical account (Judges 16) which suggested that, far from being a model of piety, he was an intemperate strongman, distant from the model martyrs depicted in Rabbinic and Christian literature from late antiquity.
In recent times, the figure of Samson has been used by secular Jewish writers as a prototype of a sage nationalism (Vladimir Jabotinsky) and, in contrast, as a destructive retaliatory approach to nuclear defence (Seymour Hersh).
In his response to the 9/11 , ‘Recapturing Islam from the Terrorists’, Abdal-Hakim Murad noted ‘Suicide bombing is so foreign to the Quranic ethos that the Prophet Samson is entirely absent from our scriptures.’ A useful description of the absorption of Samson into medieval Islamic literature can be found in Andrew Rippin, ‘The Muslim Samson: medieval, modern and scholarly interpretations’ Bulletin of SOAS, 71, 2 (2008), 239–253.
The logo was designed by Tomaž Plečko:
tomaz.plecko [@] gmail.com