Originally posted at: New Islamic Directions – Imam Zaid Shakir
This essay, written in the immediate aftermath of the failed New York City bomb attempt , will examine some of the theological implications of Muslims violating civilian immunity. I have written elsewhere why attacks against innocent civilians are in opposition to fundamental teachings of Islam. Unfortunately, there are some Muslim ideologues that sanction such actions and a growing number of Muslim civilians and noncombatants are being killed by their coreligionists, in Iraq, Afghanistan , and elsewhere. For these reasons, the argument that follows is more than merely hypothetical.
Western military commanders, politicians and philosophers who have sanctioned the widespread bombing of civilian populations –owing to the industrialization of war and its being wedded with nationalist ideology during the 19th and 20th centuries- realize that their actions involve a dangerous moral leap. The following passage from Phillip Meilinger’s work on the moral implications of modern warfare illustrates this point:
The Fall of France in 1940 left Britain alone against Germany. The ensuing Battle of Britain, culminating in the Blitz, left England reeling. Surrender was unthinkable, but it could not retaliate with its outnumbered and overstretched army and navy. The only hope of hitting back at Germany and winning the war lay with Bomber Command. But operational factors quickly demonstrated that prewar factors [emphasizing precision bombing of military objectives] had been hopelessly unrealistic. …Aircrew survival dictated night area attacks, and, in truth, there was little alternative other than not to attack at all. Moral constraints bowed to what was deemed military necessity, which led air leaders down a particularly slippery slope. 
That slippery slope led to wanton massacres of civilians that were unprecedented in history and they culminated in the nuclear incineration of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Muslims who would sanction gross violations of civilian immunity, owing to strategic desperation, are entering on a similarly slippery slope. However, there is a huge difference between the norms that govern western strategic thinking and those defined by Islam. Namely, western norms are socially constructed while those defined by Islam have their origin in revelation –the latter as understood by Muslims. Hence, from a Muslim perspective, and that perspective is critical for the argument we are making, western norms are subject to change with changes in social, political, economic and especially technological considerations, while Islamic norms are transcendent.