Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Robert Spencer has written five books about Islam. His newest book is “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades).”

The following are excerpts of a telephone interview with Mr. Spencer.

Question: Why did you write this book?

Answer: I wrote this book in order to counteract a lot of politically correct falsehood about Islam and terrorism that are hindering our response to this problem.

Q: You’ve written several books on Islam before. What’s different about this one?

A: Obviously, it contains different information in an approach that I haven’t taken before. It discusses the Crusades, which I’ve never done at length, and it tries to make the case in a form that people who are in a hurry and don’t wish to delve deeply can find as a ready reference.

Q: What has been the reaction to the book?

A: It’s either enthusiastically positive or vehemently negative. The negative responses are not only from Muslims — some have been very positive — but the leftist intellectuals, who are convinced that the West can never be anything but the oppressor and the non-West can never be anything but the victim, are really negative.

Everything that I say in the book is amply documented by Islamic sources. I think the prevailing multicultural politically correct assumption that Islam is a religion of peace is founded more on fantasy than on fact.

Q: Where did the belief that it is a “religion of peace” come from?

A: A variety of sources. The idea that it’s a religion of peace was propagated most effectively when the British wanted to enter into an alliance with the Ottoman Empire. The British people knew of the violence and didn’t want them as an ally to the British state. The British picked up the myth that Islam is a religion of peace, and they propagated that in order to make the alliance more palatable.

Also, you have terrorists themselves insisting that it is a religion of peace, by which they mean the peace that will be established in the world when Islam reigns supreme. The idea also comes from an unexamined assumption that anything that is a religion must necessarily teach the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. But Islam doesn’t teach these things. It makes a sharp distinction between believers and unbelievers.

It is also fostered by the president’s desire to avoid war with the entire Islamic world, which I think is a commendable desire, but I don’t think he’s going [about] it the right way.

Q: What is the right way?

A: There are states that are claiming to be our allies — Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, most notably. But in Pakistani public schools they still teach warfare and hate against Christians. This is what has to be faced. The simple declaration of being against terrorism is no longer enough, if it ever was. The president should call upon them to eliminate these elements of Islamic teaching. Too little has been done to try to pressure them to back up their anti-terror words with deeds.

Q: Does it frustrate you to hear leaders say that Islam is a religion of peace?

A: The depth of ignorance and the tenacity of denial never cease to amaze me. At this point, I’m not so much frustrated; it’s just a reality of life.

Q: Do you think American Islam is a lot like American Catholicism or Protestantism in that a lot of believers don’t really understand their religion?

A: It’s true to a very large degree. After all, Islam, like any other religion, has a spectrum and there are some who are very fervent and knowledgeable, and there are others who consider themselves to be members but don’t have any knowledge.

Islam is essentially an Arabic religion. It must be prayed in Arabic — [Muslims say] God doesn’t hear prayers in any other language. I was speaking with a Pakistani Muslim, and he said he was very proud of being a Muslim and had memorized large portions of the Koran and someday was going to buy a translation to learn what it all means.

People use “Muslim” and “Arab” as synonyms, but they aren’t. Most Muslims are not Arab.

Q: How, then, are people misdirected to believe that it is a religion of peace?

A: They might be taught that, depending on their mosque. There is jihad taught in mosques, but at the same time they might be taught that it is a religion of peace. America is a country of civic religion so that you will find a general imperative to be nice to people. … That’s taught all over and is not necessarily bound to one creed at all. I think it’s taught in many American mosques. …

I firmly believe that it can only exist as a religion of peace if Muslims confront and refute the Muslims who hold to the jihad elements.

The problem is that they aren’t going to convince the jihad terrorists to lay down arms if they ignore the elements that terrorists use to recruit new terrorists. The only way they will be able to create a lasting framework is to say “we reject the jihadist understanding of these verses in the Koran and we call upon Muslims to reject them and accept this understanding of Islam that is an alternative.”

This is going to be very difficult because the jihadists do have the text on their side.

Q: What is your religion?

A: I’m a Christian.

Q: Does that change how you approach this subject?

A: It doesn’t change it one bit. I am forming a coalition of Buddhists, Christians [and other religions] — all the potential victims of jihad violence — to resist this together.

Q: Are you advocating a large-scale Christian conversion of Muslims?

A: I’m not doing that. I don’t think that’s possible, as a matter of fact. I believe that proselytization should certainly be allowed in countries where it is not and freedom of conscience should be allowed, which is denied by Muslim law. I don’t think it’s realistic that you will see a large-scale conversion.

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