John Kelsay

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This article is about the research professor. For the state supreme court justice, see John Kelsay (judge).

John Kelsay is an author and a Research Professor and Richard L. Rubenstein Professor of Religion at Florida State University. He received his Ph.D. in 1985 in Ethics from University of Virginia. He mainly focuses on religious ethics, particularly in relation to the Islamic and Christian traditions. His research interests include comparative religious ethics, political ethics, and religion and war.

Kelsay's 1993 book, Islam And War: A Study in Comparative Ethics, discussed the Islamic concept of jihad as compared with the Christian concept of just war.[1] His 2007 book, Arguing the Just War in Islam, was praised by the New York Times for helping to bring greater understanding of Islamic views of war and peace to the non-Islamic world.[2][3]

In 2007, Kelsay visited Oman and urged students there to challenge fellow Muslims who used the concept of jihad to justify acts of violence.[4]

He has assumed the editorship of the interdisciplinary journal Sounding, which has moved to Florida after 25 years at the University of Tennessee.



  • Human Rights and the Conflict of Cultures (co-authored; University of South Carolina, 1988)
  • Just War and Jihad (co-edited; Greenwood Press, 1991)
  • Islam and War: A Study in Comparative Ethics (Westminster/John Knox, 1993)
  • Arguing the Just War in Islam (Harvard University Press, 2007)


  • "Islam and the Comparative Study of Religious Ethics: Review of Selected Materials, 1985-1995," in Religious Studies Review 23.1 (January 1997): 3-9.
  • "Bin Ladin's Reasons," in Christian Century 119.5 (February 27-March 6, 2002): 26-29.


  1. ^ Islam And War: A Study in Comparative Ethics reviewed by Rev. Bassam M. Madany, Middle East Resources.
  2. ^ Soldiers of Allah New York Times, January 6, 2008.
  3. ^ Arguing the Just War in Islam Harvard University Press
  4. ^ How Just Is Islam's Just-War Tradition? Evan R. Goldstein, The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 18, 2008. "Last year, John Kelsay went to Oman to talk about war. The first night there, speaking at the Grand Mosque in Muscat, he faced a large audience of students studying religion. Discussing the attacks of September 11, 2001, Kelsay argued that the perpetrators had violated the noble tradition of jihad, which is based on legal judgments about the ethics of armed struggle that stretch back to Islam's formative years. Calling on his listeners to challenge the self-styled "jihadis" who claimed that flying airplanes into the World Trade Center's twin towers and other acts of private warfare, vengeance, and terrorism were justified by traditional texts, Kelsay urged the students to consider how the concept of jihad has evolved and why it has become such a hotly contested topic."

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