We’ve heard of bacon grease bombs as a backyard diversion, but one would-be inventor named Mark S. Price hopes to fight explosives with pork in a serious way in the war against terror. In a press release, Price announces that he’s recently submitted an application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the “Suicide Bomb Deterrent,” which he says is already scheduled for deployment “at several high traffic public venues around the nation in order to protect America’s vital transportation and critical infrastructure.”
What is it, exactly? In essence: A packet of pig parts that splatters everywhere if a bomb detonates nearby, with the express aim of deterring potential Islamic suicide bombers. (Several surah in the Koran forbid contact with the blood and meat of pigs.) But would it work?
First: This doesn’t appear to be a joke. Security expert Bruce Schneier thinks it’s serious, and while the patent doesn’t yet appear in a search of the USPTO’s databases, the 33-page patent outline for the device shows that someone has put some effort into it. And the website registration appears to check out.
The Suicide Bomb Deterrent consists of a sealed “frangible retention envelope” containing pig blood and an anticoagulant to keep it splattery, and a shield imbued with powdered pig bone and a warning that blowing up a bomb will get pig parts all over you. Price’s warning: (link is a PDF)
DETONATION OF EXPOSIVE IS GREATLY DISCOURAGED
PORCINE CONTENTS- PORK
NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the frangible glass amulet affixed to this Shield contains a significant quantity of pig’s blood in a liquid state. It has been treated with preservative and anticoagulant additives. Further, this Shield is imbued with pig bone. Detonation of an explosive charge within close proximity of this Shield is greatly discouraged.
Though it might seem farfetched, there’s actually a long history of attempts by non-Muslims to use pork as a deterrent: During the Spanish-American War, the US threatened to bury Muslim troops on the other side in pig skins. Snopes says the efficacy of this attempt is undetermined. A Russian newspaper reportedly claimed that Russian officials buried the (presumably Muslim) Chechen hostage-takers in the 2002 Nord-Ost siege in pig skins as well. As Price points out in his patent application, an Israeli chemist and rabbi named Moshe Antelman developed a pork-filled bullet with similar deterrent aims in mind.
So would the “Suicide Bomb Deterrent” deter any suicide bombs? Maybe not. While right-wing forums are rampant with claims that pork has worked as a deterrent against Islamic combatants in the past, there’s no hard evidence. More broadly, to work as a deterrent, would-be terrorists would need to be convinced that getting pork all over them right before their deaths was a grave sin, possibly grave enough to bar them entrance to paradise. It’s not clear that they’d buy it: A common interpretation of the Koranic pork prohibitions is that they only apply to willful consumption, and that accidental contact, much less accidental bodily contact, can be forgiven. Some terrorist sects, like the Takfir wal-Hijra, explicitly permit otherwise forbidden acts like consuming pork and alcohol and shaving their beards in the service of the greater jihad. While we can’t dismiss the possibility that some Islamic terrorists would balk at detonating bombs if there were shatterable pork packets with urgent warning labels in the vicinity, they seem far from an absolute deterrent.