20 Jan

Has it really been that long since the last post? It appears it has. Regardless, new year, new regime. Things are no less busy, but hopefully I’ll find time to post more over the coming year.

Once again I’ll be giving a paper at the Historians of the Twentieth Century United States Conference. This time it takes place at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle. Last year, my paper was focussed on a very tight time period. This year, I’ve chosen to go a little bit broader and also address some of the wider themes of my doctoral thesis. Full paper outline after the jump.

America, Britain, and the “Islamic Bomb”, 1974-1980

The notion of an “Islamic Bomb” – a nuclear weapon designed and built by Pakistan but spiritually belonging to other nations within the Islamic ummah – has long had political and cultural currency in the West. After the exposure of the A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation ring in the early 2000s, numerous popular works with titles such as The Nuclear Jihadist (1) and America and the Islamic Bomb: The Deadly Compromise (2) reinforced the notion of the “Islamic Bomb” as a concrete threat to Western interests.

This paper will address the roots of the “Islamic Bomb” idea, examining what the concept meant to American and British officials dealing with the Pakistani nuclear weapons programme during its early days of development (1974-1980). It will also demonstrate how this concept influenced actual policy towards Pakistan and its nascent nuclear capability. Using newly available archival sources, this paper contends that the pan-Islamic rhetoric of Pakistani leaders such as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and General Mohammed Zia ul-Haq fed into pre-existing American and British conceptions of the “Islamic world.” It will make the case that numerous false notions of the nature of violence in Islamic thinking underlay Western conceptions of the “Islamic Bomb.” Situated at the crossroads of scholarly work on images of Islam in the Western world and literature on nuclear non-proliferation, this paper will contend that American and British interaction with the idea of nuclear weapons possessed by a religious “other” represented part of an entrenched way of thinking about the Islamic world that spread far beyond the arena of anti-proliferation diplomacy.


(1) Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins, The Nuclear Jihadist: The True Story of the Man Who Sold the World’s Most Dangerous Secrets…And How We Could Have Stopped Him (New York, Hachette, 2012)
(2) David Armstrong and Joseph J. Trento, America and the Islamic Bomb: The Deadly Compromise (Hanover, Steerforth Press, 2007)

One Response to “HOTCUS 2013”


  1. Critical Perspectives on Nuclear Weapons | theatomicage - May 20, 2014

    […] This is something that I have become endlessly fascinated with since starting the PhD and may have mentioned it before. Here’s a precis […]

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