It's being reported that Bin Laden has decreed that he would never be captured. "If there's a 99 percent risk of the Sheik's being captured, he told his men that they should all die and martyr him as well,"
Question: If this occurred, should it be considered martyrdom or assisted suicide?
The American Heritage Dictionary defines a martyr as one who chooses to suffer death rather than renounce religious principles.
There's a significant difference in "choosing to suffer death" for particular beliefs or principles and "decreeing others to bring about one's own death" (even if it is dependent upon future circumstances). In the first case, one submits to death brought on by others; while in the latter Bin Laden would be the cause and responsible agent (on one level) of his own death.
Compare the difference between Laden's statement and that of the Apostle Paul, who said "I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." I trust the difference is clear as is the distinction regarding which is the more honorable.
Should not thinking Muslims question the example of their leaders - one who just a few years ago called for his people to sacrifice for the faith while he lived in a mansion with gold fixtures in his bathrooms; and now a leader who calls for others to sacrifice their own lives through jihad, while he would choose to "take" rather than "give" his own?
I'm sure if one tried hard enough, arguments could be made for why such an option might be better for either the individual or a particular religious community, but not without violating the law concerning life and death which governs not only our relations concerning the lives of others, but concerning our own.
It will be interesting to discover if Laden's choice is an esteemed one in the eastern and Muslim communities, for in the West it comes across more cowardly than courageous.