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Morality and War

(Page 2 of 3)



Reacting to the efforts to convert Indians in the New World by force, the Spaniard Francisco de Vitoria in the 16th century became the first to reject the idea of religion as a legitimate basis for war. "Yet it wasn't until the horrendous experience of the post-Reformation religious wars, and particularly the Thirty Years' War," Johnson says, "that Western culture basically said: 'Never again.'" Still, examples of holy war appeared sporadically into the 17th century.

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In addition to right authority, "just war" principles include:

• the idea of just cause, involving defense against attack, and retaliation.

• the idea of a right intention (not to dominate others, to show superiority, to enjoy the use of force, or exact cruel vengeance).

• a reasonable probability of success.

• an intention to restore a just peace.

• more good done than harm.

• use of force only as a last resort.

• avoidance of harm to noncombatants.

• proportionality - use of the least destructive force possible.

The West's campaign against Afghanistan (and any expansion into other countries) is being judged by many around the world on these principles, as well as by Muslims from their sense of grievance and their own traditions.

Principles of jihad

In Islam, the war tradition is called "jihad of the sword," representing but one element of the broad concept of jihad, which refers to personal and community "striving in the path of God."

"Jihad is a very important concept in Islam," says Taha Jabir Al-Alwani, director of the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences in Leesburg, Va. "When you commit yourself to what God asks you to do, and avoid whatever he asks you to abandon, and when you cooperate with your community and encourage the practice of good - this is all part of the jihad.

"But also when somebody attacks your home, people, country, or religion, this also is jihad," he adds. "Just war is when you need to defend these things."

The author of several books on just war and jihad, Johnson says that in the 10th century, Islamic jurists in the Abbasid period of the Islamic state defined the concepts of dar al Islam (realm of Islamic society) and dar al harb (the sphere of war), representing the territories outside the Islamic state with which there were no treaties.

Offensive jihad could be initiated only by the Imam, the religious and political leader of the Islamic community. No such leader has existed for centuries - and will not again until the last days, according to Islamic teaching - so only defensive jihad may now be pursued.

The principles of war in that tradition include:

• a purpose of self defense.

• proportionality of response.

• avoidance of harm to women, children, and other classes of people (the same lists as in just war), and to the environment.

• cessation war if the enemy seeks reconciliation.

If the dar al Islam is attacked from the dar el harb, every Muslim has the responsibility to fight to protect it. During the periods of colonization by European powers, Dr. Al-Alwani says, many Muslims fighting for independence understood it as a defensive jihad for freedom. Peter Partner, the British author of "God of Battles: Holy Wars of Christianity and Islam," suggests that, at the same time, the leaders of the anticolonialist movement were largely modern nationalists, not religious people.

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