This month I was privileged to join a distinguished group of 100 international political, military, business and civic leaders in Paris to launch Global Zero, a campaign to mobilize decisive momentum for the global elimination of nuclear weapons. Global Zero is combining public outreach with high-level policy work to develop a step-by-step plan for phased, verified reduction of the world’s estimated 27,000 nuclear weapons down to zero.
This may sound like a baby boomers’ 60s revival dream, but in an increasingly perilous world the threat of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism has emerged as a 21st century priority. In recent months, a growing chorus of world leaders of nuclear nations including U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and Russian Prime Minster Vladimir Putin have called for the elimination of all nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia are among 189 countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Not surprisingly, the idea has overwhelming public support. A recent Global Zero poll of 21 nuclear and non-nuclear countries found that an average 76 percent of respondents favor an international agreement that would achieve zero nuclear weapons according to a set timetable that would include compliance monitoring.
I am personally committed to Global Zero as an international public servant, a Muslim, a citizen of the Middle East, and as a mother and grandmother. Weapons of mass destruction (WMD) have been of dire concern to me since my California elementary school cold war ‘nuclear attack’ drills when we were instructed to dive for cover under our rickety wooden desks. The terror instilled into us by those absurd exercises lasted for years. However, most of my experience over the past 30 years has been with WMD in slow motion–landmines and cluster bombs littering the Middle East and other conflict regions where I have worked.
In the Middle East, the Balkans, Southeast and Central Asia, and Latin America I have witnessed firsthand the devastating consequences–human, economic, environmental and political–of the vicious cycle of arms proliferation and the inevitable insecurity that results.
As a Muslim, my faith strengthens my resolve to eradicate these evil indiscriminate killers. The Islamic Laws of Just War, first enunciated in the 7th Century CE, share with international humanitarian law the fundamental principles of non-initiation of war, and of the sacrosanct protection of non-combatants and civilians even in defensive conflicts (especially including women, children, the elderly and the sick), as well as the forbidding of wanton destruction of animals, the natural environment, medical institutes and places of worship. Thus nuclear weapons and other WMD are in every sense inherently un-Islamic weapons of war in Islamic thought, as they do not distinguish between military and civilians and non-combatants, and they destroy and kill en masse indiscriminately.
I am tremendously encouraged that there is unanimous support in the Middle East for the creation of a regional WMD-free zone, although differences exist on its timing. Both the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) have repeatedly called for a non-discriminatory international treaty on the elimination of WMD, and encouraged the establishment of nuclear weapon-free zones in the Middle East, Central Asia and elsewhere.
All Arab countries have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and over the past 30 years have pursued intensive diplomatic efforts to bring Israel into the treaty.
My husband King Hussein, a Hashemite direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), steadfastly called for removing nuclear weapons from the Middle East, calling them “One of the most dramatic examples of the gaps between the world’s technological progress and moral rectitude.” “Nuclear war is not a military problem. It is a moral dilemma,” he said.
In my husband’s last interview before his death he underscored the threat of terrorism, the potential availability of WMD and our responsibility to future generations to increase control over them. And, he emphasized over and over again that only through dialogue and truly listening and trying to understand each other’s perspectives, fears and needs would we find solutions to the issues that divide us.
Global Zero is helping to facilitate that dialogue, and with it a path to peace.
So I add my humble voice to so many others around the world, citizens of all nations, devout followers of all faiths, in declaring that now is the time to renew our collective commitment to a nuclear-weapon free world. We truly have no other choice.
Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, who was born an Arab-American, is an international humanitarian activist and an outspoken voice on issues of world peace and justice.