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Contentions

Jihadists, Suicide, and Nuclear Weapons

Over at The Long War Journal, Lisa Lundquist examines the decision by Pakistani clerics to give religious sanction for suicide attacks. While her analysis focuses on what the Pakistani declaration means for Afghan attempts to outlaw religiously-motivated suicide attacks as part of the ongoing Afghan peace process, there are two larger points which she leaves unaddressed.

The first is pedantic, but necessary in an age when political correctness trumps reality. The Pakistani ulema council’s decision should end the nonsense quips that suicide bombing can’t be theologically-grounded, because Islam forbids suicide. The debate among Muslim theologians is actually more nuanced, and was well-covered in this Middle East Quarterly article. In short, the devil is in the details, because Koranic verse 2:154 declares, “Do not think that those who are killed in the way of God are dead, for indeed they are alive, even though you are not aware,” which means that a bystander’s assumption that the terrorist committed suicide because his head is lying on the street somewhere is wrong, since he went to paradise while still alive and therefore can’t be said to have killed himself.

The second is more important. “Palestine is occupied by Israel, Kashmir by India, and Afghanistan by the US. So if the Muslims don’t have the atomic bomb, they should sacrifice their lives for God,” Lundquist cited Tahir Ashrafi, the head of the Pakistan Ulema Council, as declaring. This suggests that if Islamist powers or groups did have the atomic bomb, they would gladly use that against Israel, India, or the United States.

President Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel might live in the belief that it is the American projection of power that is the problem, and that radical Islamists are simply another breed of negotiating partners. To dismiss the desire of the most radical elements for the destruction of Western culture, however, would be a fateful mistake. Their failure to attack the United States is not the result of reticence or a desire for peace, but rather because they have not yet mastered the weaponry to do so.


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