Just War on Terror? A Christian and Muslim Response






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Publication: Naval War College Review
Author: Demy, Timothy J
Date published: January 1, 2012

Fisher, David, and Brian Wicker, eds. Just War on Terror? A Christian and Muslim Response. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2010. 231pp. $29.95

This edited volume provides fourteen essays on various aspects of combating terrorism and insurgencies from a justwar perspective. All the contributors, with the exception of Philip Bobbitt, an American, are from the United Kingdom. Contributors are prominent members of their respective faculties and are well-known within the fields of war and security studies. While the subtitle accentuates religious traditions with respect to the just-war tradition, the volume is not a dialogue between religious perspectives, nor is every chapter devoted to religious interpretations. Rather, the book is a collection of essays, of which two are authored by practicing Muslim scholars. Apart from these essays, the religious dimensions of combating terrorism are not prominently presented.

The two essays by Islamic scholars are especially helpful for readers interested in the religious dynamics of post-9/11 terrorism. In the first, "Terrorism and Islamic Theologies of Religiously- Sanctioned War," Tim Winter, who lectures in Islamic studies at the University of Cambridge and is an imam at the Cambridge Mosque, recounts the interaction of Islamic jurisprudence with the emerging international system of the nineteenth century, as scholars and leaders in Muslim countries have sought to integrate various religious interpretations with international political realities. He also provides a useful overview of the concepts of jihad and hiraba. The second significant essay is that of Ahmad Achtar, "Challenging Al-Qa'ida's Justification of Terror." Achtar is a lecturer in Islamic studies at Heythrop College, University of London, and he argues, with documentation, that al-Qa'ida's justifications of terror are not part of mainstream Sunni religious and legal thought and are not shared by the majority of Muslims.

Other essays focus more on aspects of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and on tenets of the just-war tradition.

Of these, three essays in particular stand out as of interest to readers of this journal: Sir Michael Howard's "Philip Bobbitt's Terror and Consent: A Brief Critique," Brian Wicker's "Just War and State Sovereignty," and David Fisher's "Terror and Pre-emption: Can Military Pre-emption Ever Be Just?"

In the final chapter, the editors offer a reflection on countering terrorism justly after 9/11. In these few pages they provide an excellent summary of the weaknesses of al-Qa'ida and the likelihood of its eventual demise. They also remind readers of the necessity of maintaining ethical standards in the midst of conflict: "A common thread running through all the lessons learnt has thus been a rediscovery of the importance of morality even amidst and, indeed, particularly amidst the pressures and passions of conflict."

As with most edited volumes, not every chapter will appeal to everyone. However, for anyone interested in contemporary just-war thought, its viability, and its relevance to twenty-first-century warfare, there is much in this volume on which to reflect.

Author affiliation:

TIMOTHY J. DEMY

Naval War College

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