Double-Tap Strike: Muslims in the Defence Industry

Amirah Chati

On the 28th of September 2015, in the remote Yemeni village of Al-Wahijah, wedding celebrations were taking place when a double-tap strike — targeting civilians and thereafter emergency responders — killed 131 people.[1]

“The corpses were scattered among the trees,” recounted the father of the groom, Mohammed Busaibis. “Why did they attack us? There is nothing around here. No military camps, not even a police station.”

Arms manufacturers were brought to the International Criminal Court for their war crimes in Yemen in 2019.[2] BAE Systems was named first. 

As one of the largest arms producers in the world (the UK, US and Saudi governments being its primary customers), BAE Systems manufactures and sells combat aircraft, ammunition, missile launchers, armoured vehicles, cyber intelligence, submarines and artillery systems[3]. At career fairs and symposiums, the company masquerades as a benevolent corporation that helps states serve local and international interests.

Scratch the thin surface of corporate whitewashing and a thick web of profiteering is revealed. From their role in the near-genocidal slaughter in East Timor[4] and cluster bombing campaigns on Yemeni citizens[5], to collaborating with Israel’s Elbit Systems[6] — a company that battle-tests weapons on Gaza[7] — and selling arms to 22 of the 30 countries on the UK government’s human rights watch list[8], BAE is stripped down to its unadorned truth.

This summer, the company announced a recruitment drive in northern towns in England, leaning on the Conservative government’s “Levelling Up” policy. While alleging that providing jobs would bring deprived and deindustrialised towns in line with southern affluent areas, the campaign was little more than a smokescreen for conflict profiteering. Lancashire, in the northwest of England, is home to an ethnically diverse Muslim community, and houses a BAE site that manufactures Eurofighter Typhoon aircrafts used by the Saudi government on Yemeni citizens.[9] Despite the academic brilliance of many of Lancashire’s young people and a lively tradition of establishing madrasahs, a defence company like BAE has successfully cajoled and courted a Muslim community of immigrants and their children, beguiling them with the promise of substantial pay and prestige[10], while concealing what is happening across the company by piecemeal operations. 

Putting aside the many misgivings of the “Levelling Up” policy as mere Tory idiolect, creating a job market in economically deprived, often ethnically diverse areas, to build weaponry that will be used on impoverished, non-Western countries is a disturbing example of what Franz Fanon called the disproportionate “racial distribution of guilt”.[11]

A campaign of deceit

Are the children of immigrants becoming the foot soldiers of colonisers and interventionists?

This burgeoning, ethical grey area is not limited to one company in a small region of the UK. From intelligence agencies and tech companies like Palantir Technologies, to diplomatic postings and foreign policy civil service, there are numerous areas in which Muslims are recruited for work that protects the interests of Western states, often at the expense of Muslim populations. Defence employers are also widening their nets of recruitment, offering professional and STEM-focused careers to ethnic and religious minorities. By whitewashing their corporate crimes through a revolving-door relationship with the media and politicians, such organisations have ensured that, in the words of George Orwell, “lies sound truthful and murder respectable”.

To list some connections, the Chairman of BAE Sir Roger Carr was also the vice-Chair of the BBC trust until April 2017[12]; Peter Thiel, Chairman of Palantir, was dubbed the ‘kingmaker’ of the Republican Party, honouring his mega-donor status of right-wing populist politicians[13] [14]; and the lobbying firm of Christopher Pyne, a former defence minister of Australia, now lists Elbit Systems as one of its major clients[15].

By obfuscating the true nature of their work, these organisations have successfully recruited Muslims into causes that go against the very essence of the ummah. Taking the blessed analogy of the Prophet of God ﷺ, can one part of a body mutilate another limb, no matter how seemingly benign the professional role? There is a wider conversation to be had on the colonial and imperial structures of warfare in which a land that is inhabited by people of color is a battleground, while their brothers and sisters in faith work in towns that believe they are in peacetime, sacrificing neither blood nor psyche in the toll of war.

Dolours Price of the Irish Republican Army expressed this contradiction when England initially remained unscathed from the violence of the Troubles: “This is half of their war!”[16] But the overarching and immediate question is this: is the wealthier and more comfortable arm of the ummah of Rasulullah ﷺ forgetting that a body cannot fight against itself?

A moral battleground: Western militaries

Serving in Western armies remains unconscionable for most Muslims. Unlike the somewhat indirect roles mentioned above, participation in the military can directly support violent, Western interests against the ummah. Whatever extravagant praises are lauded on veterans, particularly in the US, there is no doubt about the horror of Western military campaigns. Brown University conservatively estimates that some 929,000 people have been directly killed in post-9/11 conflicts.[17] This number pales next to the millions of indirect deaths from disease, displacement, and loss of critical infrastructure.

It is hard to imagine that any anthem or patriotism-come-politicking could hoodwink Muslims into ignoring this truth. Yet amid a growing celebration of a multicultural military service, this phenomenon is finding acceptance in quarters of the Muslim community.

Epitomising liberal hypocrisy, many militaries in Western countries now permit hijabs (the US military having once called them tokens of “passive terrorism”[18]), turbans and fasting for their personnel, capitalising on the Muslim presence in their armies to sanitise their foreign policy. In 2015, the British army launched a campaign to recruit more Muslim soldiers[19], and two years later, several Islamic scholars attended a three-day conference with military top brass at Sandhurst Academy to discuss how to increase Muslim participation[20].

The Islamic conception of ummah defies race and national divisions; it is a love that persists beyond language, time and space. Yet the efforts of Western armies in welcoming Muslims constitutes a shrewd and overt attempt to undermine the threat posed by a transnational, united ummah. The patriotism demanded of an army, which places allegiance to the state above all else, is offered as a strategic solution to the ‘Muslim problem’.

In the words of Germaine Greer, “No minority group can ever find freedom by agreeing to live the lives of unfree (white) men”.[21]

The counter argument levied against this is that of just wars and of the patriotic need to defend one’s home country. While a larger analysis would be required to comprehensively tackle these points, it is worth trying to recall the last war fought outside of Europe by Western allies that could be unanimously agreed upon as a defensive, just war. In fact, oftentimes, wars are spearheaded on value-driven agendas with lines drawn in the moral sand, as highlighted by former US President George Bush’s famous ultimatum: “You’re either with us or with the terrorists”. This rhetoric allows Western allies to erect a sanctimonious façade over the true reasons for their interventions: regional destabilisation and resource acquisition.

Our faith teaches us that pleasing Allah ﷻ is the principal objective of a Muslim, not taking a seat at a table of conceded principles. Despite the relentless promotion of identity politics, there are some seats and uniforms that are a clear degradation of our values.

Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand the people are safe, and the believer is the one from whom the people’s lives and wealth are safe”.

Sunan Al-Nasāʾī

Brotherhood as responsibility

BAE sites across the UK are on course for a “very strong year” in the wake of geopolitical tensions in Eastern Europe[22]. Thus, the tragically cyclical nature of warfare continues. It would be naïve to suggest that this is a new phenomenon. Powerful men cultivating profit through the labour of the ordinary worker, at the expense of the innocent, has taken place since time immemorial. It is also true that each of these perpetrators will face their reckoning and be questioned for these unanswerable actions.

But whilst our anger rightfully falls on these states, little is reserved for the self-mutilating actions of Western Muslim communities, wealthier and more comfortable with each passing generation. A strange case of cognitive dissonance occurs when a community liberally volunteers and donates to causes, the roots of which may be tracked to their hometown and aspirational career fairs. 

The oft-repeated refutation to arguments that demand a more critical evaluation of one’s own moral choices is the underlining of just how prosaic, administrative and ordinary an individual believes their role is: how far the desk is from the bomb, how far their platoon from the action. But in the words of Gai Eaton:

“When evil men occupy the seats of titular power in one country or another they do so only by courtesy of good men, who obey them without question, giving so much, the best they have to give, to purposes which they do not think it their right or duty to assess.”

In contrast, to reject the banality of evil and condemn oppression is the responsibility and privilege of every Muslim.

The morals that are demanded of believers, the heavenly ascribed laws that determine our prayers and pilgrimages, our marriages and masjids, our aqeeqahs and janazahs should also determine our livelihoods, beyond the preliminary halal and haram. The ummah is in need of bright minds, and each individual is in need of personal sustenance. The area where this Venn diagram intersects is boundless and fruitful if the pleasure of Allah is the foremost objective of our material pursuits.

Amirah Chati is an alimiyyah graduate currently completing her Bachelor’s degree in the UK. An ardent follower of UK politics and current affairs, she hopes to centre the role and values of a Muslim in her writing, combining her teaching in the local madrasah with policymaking and research. You can follow her on Instagram: @thoughtavalanche.

[1]Missile Attack On Yemen Wedding Kills 131“. The Guardian, 2015

[2]International Criminal Court Asked To Investigate Corporate Executives And Government Officials“. Amnesty International, 2019

[3]Our Company“. BAE Systems | International 

[4] Chomsky, Noam. “East Timor, Horror and Amnesia” Le Monde Diplomatique, 1 Oct. 1999,

[5]Exposed: British-made bombs used on civilian targets in Yemen“. Amnesty International UK, 2018,

[6]BAE Systems, Elbit Systems Of America Team To Shape The Future Of Army Combat Vehicles“. Elbitamerica.Com, 2020,

[7] Rapoport, M. “Thanks To Gaza Protests, Israel Has A New Crop Of ‘Battle Tested’ Weapons For Sale – +972 Magazine“. +972 Magazine, 2018

[8]BAE Systems“. Extinction Rebellion Peace, 2021

[9]Companies Supplying the War in Yemen.” CAAT, 7 October 2020

[10] Slater, A. “East Lancs younger generation can reach for sky with BAE jobs” Lancashire Telegraph, 21 July

[11] Hook, D. “Fanon and the psychoanalysis of racism”. London: LSE Research Online, 2004  

[12] Edwards, D. and Cromwell, D., Yemen: Feeding the Famine.” Propaganda Blitz: How the Corporate Media Distort Reality, Pluto Press, London, 2018, p. 139. 

[13] Perkins, T. “The biggest losers in the US midterm elections? Republican mega-donors.” The Guardian, 6 December 2022,

[14] Streitfeld, D. “Peter Thiel to Donate $1.25 Million in Support of Donald Trump.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Oct. 2016

[15] Robin, M., “At Least Elbit Systems Has a Great LobbyistAustralian Financial Review, 13 May 2021

[16] Keefe, P. R., Say Nothing, Harper Collins, 2018 

[17] Crawford, N. C., and Lutz, C.. “Human Cost of Post-9/11 Wars: Direct War Deaths in Major War Zones, Afghanistan and Pakistan (Oct. 2001 – Aug. 2021); Iraq (March 2003 – Aug. 2021); Syria (Sept. 2014 – May 2021); Yemen (Oct. 2002-Aug. 2021) and Other Post-9/11 War Zones.” The Costs of War, Brown University, 1 Sept. 2021

[18] Hussain, M. “US. Military White Paper Describes Wearing Hijab As “Passive Terrorism”, The Intercept, 23 Feb. 2016

[19] Sengupta, K. “The British Army launches drive to recruit more MuslimsThe Independent, 05 February 2015

[20] Burgess, K. “Imams advise army eager to recruit more MuslimsThe Sunday Times, 04 April 2017

[21] Greer, G., The Whole Woman, Black Swan, 2014, pp. 2.  

[22] Pfeifer, S. “BAE Systems Bullish as Defence Spending RisesFinancial Times, 15 Nov. 2022,  

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