Ayman al-Zawahiri is facing his first crisis as the new leader of Al-Qaeda after the National Union of Martyrs announced that suicide bombers will be going on strike due to the ongoing row over pensions for martyrs.
Al-Zawahiri promised a tough stance on unions in his election campaign, but the news that the dispute has lead to NUM members voting to down bombs indefinitely from July 1st will be a stern test in the early days of his leadership.
The row is over new proposals to cut the number of virgins offered to martyrs in paradise from 72 to 70. The figurehead of the international terrorist organisation insists that this move is necessary in order to reduce the huge virgin deficit inherited from the previous regime.
NUM leader Ali al-Ahly is less than impressed with this argument ‘The global virgin crisis was not caused by our members, if anything they helped to increase the number of virgins in paradise, and we don’t see why they should be punished for a problem they did not create. We have already had departmental budgets hit with heavy cuts and the bomb-making training centre is literally operating on a shoe string. That might save money, but it doesn’t work very well as fuse wire.’
Al-Ahly goes on to claim that he is already struggling to recruit potential martyrs with the rewards on offer and cutbacks will make this task significantly harder.
’72 virgins is the least anybody expects as a reward for martyrdom, by lowering this number we are in danger of becoming a laughing stock. Our members have already had a pay freeze for the last thousand years and we are actually proposing that the number of virgins should be increased in line with inflation. We want an immediate increase to 75 virgins, with that number rising to 80 in 2012 and then tied to inflation from then on. Some of our members are retiring very young and expecting them to make a lump sum payment of 72 virgins last for an eternity in paradise is simply unacceptable in the modern world.’
With neither side noted for their negotiating skills analysts are expecting the dispute to last for some time. Although the NUM members will be somewhat hampered by the fact that their main method of getting what they want is to threaten to blow themselves up, which would involve crossing the picket line and could lead to them being ostracised by fellow union members.