According to Émile Durkheim’s classic study on suicide, martyrdom is an altruistic suicide. Those who consciously sacrifice their lives for a supreme ideal demonstrate not only a profound faith in the ideal but also strong commitment to a group. In the martyr’s hierarchy of values, the individual’s life counts for less than the supreme and universal ideal he or she believes. The heroic dimension of martyrdom means precisely the lucid awareness that by acting in a particular way, death is a certainty.

After the death, the person becomes the emblem of the group. This is why the martyr’s body is so important in the social representation of the altruistic suicide. The members of the group are able to strengthen their conviction by exalting the blood of ...

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