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18 - “Do Not Violate the Limit”: Three Issues in Islamic Thinking on Weapons of Mass Destruction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

John Kelsay
Affiliation:
Professor of Religion, Florida State University
Sohail H. Hashmi
Affiliation:
Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts
Steven P. Lee
Affiliation:
Hobart and William Smith Colleges, New York
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Summary

It is a pleasure to respond to Sohail Hashmi's thoughtful and thorough chapter. I agree with Hashmi that the debate among Muslims on weapons of mass destruction is not particularly well developed. Indeed, at certain points an analysis of Islamic approaches to WMD must have more the character of a thought experiment than of a descriptive analysis. This being the case, much of what we must do involves exploring the framework within which Muslims can (and sometimes do) discuss WMD. I thus develop my remarks in terms of three points at which the relation between Islamic political thought and the debate over weapons of mass destruction deserves elaboration. These are, first, the place of discrimination or noncombatant immunity in historic and especially contemporary Islamic discourse; second, the distinction between use of WMD and possession for purposes of deterrence (with attendant consequences for questions about nonproliferation and disarmament); and third, the importance of the dialectic between universal and particular in Islamic political thought.

DISCRIMINATION

As developed by classical jurists, the Islamic tradition proposes strictures on resort to and conduct of war. Consider the following report of the Prophet's practice, which is cited almost universally as a starting point for discussion:

Whenever the Apostle of God sent forth an army or a detachment, he charged its commander personally to fear God, the Most High, and he enjoined the Muslims who were with him to do good. And he said: Fight in the name of God and in the path of God. Combat those who disbelieve in God.[…]

Type
Chapter
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Ethics and Weapons of Mass Destruction
Religious and Secular Perspectives
, pp. 353 - 362
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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