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The Islamic Bomb

by Ibn Warraq

The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 14, Number 3.

On May 28, 1998, Pakistan detonated between two and five (the exact number is disputed) nuclear devices in its southwestern deserts, becoming the world's first Islamic nation to test nuclear weapons. Pakistan's nuclear tests, which were immediately condemned by all leading industrialized nations, were in direct response to the tests carried out by neighboring India on May 11 and May 13. The world press referred to Pakistan's bomb as the "Islamic bomb."

Pakistani government officials have angrily rejected the term. Tariq Altaf, a Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman, told journalists, "Nothing gives me more offense than the use of the phrase `Islamic bomb.' There is no such thing as an Islamic bomb. This is a weapon for the self-defense of Pakistan - period. There is no question of transferring the technology to anybody. This is deterrence for Pakistan alone." But is this true?

The day the nuclear devices were tested in Baluchistan, masses of Muslims rushed onto the streets of the major cities of Pakistan shouting, "Allahu Akabr!" ("Allah is Great!"). They danced with joy around models of the Hatf - Pakistan's nuclear missile - marked "Islamic bomb." One student from the Islamic University of Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, said, "This is Islam's bomb. It has boosted our confidence, and will reinforce the solidarity of all Muslims faced with the West that rejects and despises us. Muslims unite behind the atomic bomb!"

A professor from the same university, tells us, "There is already a Jewish bomb, and a Christian bomb. Why not an Islamic bomb?" Friday sermons in mosques all over Pakistan emphasized the importance to Islam of Pakistan's nuclear bomb.

In its pursuit of nuclear power status Pakistan had financial support from Saudi Arabia and Libya. Pakistan has shared nuclear data and expertise with Iraq and Iran. The first foreign envoy since the tests to arrive in Pakistan was Kamal Kharrazi, the Iranian Foreign Minister. Iran was the first to express total support for Pakistan in the name of Islamic solidarity. "Having lived for long under the shadow of Israel's nuclear threat, Muslims all over the world feel confident because a fellow Islamic nation has crossed the nuclear threshold," he said. HAMAS leader Shaykh Ahmad Yassin hailed Pakistan's capability as an "asset to the Arab and Muslim nations."

Now that Pakistan has joined the nuclear weapons club, it sees itself as the leader of the entire Muslim world. As Yossef Bodansky, Director of the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare for the U.S. Congress, put it, "Other Islamic leaders not only supported the Pakistani test, but expected Pakistan to use its nuclear capabilities to further all Islamic causes."

Whether Pakistan likes the characterization or not, its bomb is an Islamic bomb, and so accepted throughout the Muslim world by both governments and people in the streets.

Ibn Warraq is author of Why I Am Not a Muslim (Prometheus Books, 1996) and executive director of the International Society for Islamic Secularization.

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This page was last updated 12/04/2003

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