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A review of Onward Muslim Soldiers. By Robert Spencer.

Feb 27, 2004

Regnery, 2003.

It may be recalled that early on in the recent war in Iraq, an American soldier launched a grenade and small arms attack of fellow sleeping soldiers in northern Kuwait. Three US soldiers were killed, and fifteen injured. It can be argued that Sergeant Hasan Akbar, an American Muslim, was simply doing what was his duty as a Muslim.

In this book Robert Spencer argues that such actions are in fact not necessarily out of place for a Muslim – that the Koran and Islamic law (Sharia) both offer plenty of justification for them. Moreover, both the example of Muhammad and Islamic history provide support for these sorts of activities. With a wealth of documentation, the author shows that the concept of jihad (holy war) and dhimmitude (the subjugation of non-Muslim minorities), continues to strongly influence many Muslims today.

Consider the doctrine of jihad. There are of course different understandings of what exactly is meant by jihad. Muslim moderates and apologists insist that jihad simply means to struggle or  strive for a just cause. There is in fact a distinction in Islam between the “greater jihad” which is a kind of spiritual warfare against the selfish nature, and “lesser jihad” which means a struggle against non-Muslims.

It is this latter concept that we must deal with. Because there is no ultimate central authority in Islam, disagreement exists as to interpreting the Koran, the weight of tradition (Hadith), and the example of Muhammad. But the Koran (Sura 9:29), Islamic history and jurisprudence all hold that there are three choices for the non-Muslim in a Muslim land: conversion to Islam, dhimmitude, or death. “The goal of jihad is thus the incorporation of non-Muslims into Muslim society, either by conversion or submission.”

Koranic injunctions to fight are numerous, as they are in the various collections of Hadith. And Muhammad himself set the example of violent conquest. The idea of complete submission to Islam, even to the point of death, argues Spencer, “remains a vital part of Islamic theology”.  Thus jihad is very much concerned with the concept of holy war, and even terrorism. And as Spencer notes, “Neither Christianity nor any other religion has ever had a doctrine like jihad”.

Hand in hand with jihad is the notion of dhimmitude. Non-Muslims in Muslim countries are considered dhimmis, or protected peoples. Such protection however often results in second-class citizenship (and worse) for the minority groups. Various social, political and religious restrictions, along with the mandatory payment of a poll-tax (jizya) effectively spells the gradual liquidation of the minority groups.

Apologists for Islam often claim that these practices may have been true in the past, but are no longer so prevalent. But Spencer amply documents how both jihad and dhimmitude are alive and well in most Muslim nations today.

September 11 was, to a great degree, a logical outcome of the concept of jihad. Some however argue that as the ultimate suicide bombing, Sept. 11 cannot be reconciled with Islam, since suicide is sinful in Islam. But many Muslims defend suicide bombing, arguing that it is not really suicide but martyrdom for Allah, something much praised in the Koran. They insist that the bombers simply use their bodies to kill others, not themselves. And those who are killed while fighting for Allah are promised a one-way ticket to Paradise. Interestingly, in Islam, no other action guarantees one’s eternal destiny in Paradise.

Still, critics will often point out that Muslims are not alone in their fundamentalism. What about Christian fundamentalists? Defenders of militant Islam like to raise the issue of old Testament laws to say that fundamentalism can be found amongst Christians as well. For example, doesn’t the Old Testament warrant the death penalty for adultery, homosexuality and other crimes? Thus why complain about strict Islamic justice?

The difference of course, as Spencer reminds us, is that Jesus specifically abrogated such punishments (as in the women caught in adultery) and for 2000 years the Christian faith has operated on the concepts of love and forgiveness. Islam however continues to harshly punish various sins, with adulterers still stoned to death in places like Saudi Arabia.

A good part of this book documents how radical Islam is at war against not only the West, but moderate Muslims as well. He offers detailed, referenced accounts of how militant Muslims are at work in the West, and how many Western sympathisers have been duped by their words of peace and tolerance. Yes, the Koran does speak of these ideas, but it also contains many verses devoted to violent intolerance.

He documents how Western leftists have been silent on Muslim atrocities, presumable because only America is capable of evil. He details how leftist apologists for radical Islam in the West have distorted the evidence and closed their ears to the facts of history. This attempt to blame America first and justify Muslim jihad are having serious repercussions in the West, says Spencer.

And the truth is, he argues, for the radical Muslim, Islam is at war with the world, and until all the earth is brought under Dar al-Islam (the house, or rule, of Islam), terror, fighting and suicide bombings will continue. That is why the West needs to be ever vigilant, and needs to continue to encourage moderate Islam to get its own house in order, and disassociate itself entirely from the extremist elements.

While we must do all we can to encourage Muslim moderation, we dare not ignore Muslim extremism. This book helps us to do both, and deserves a wide reading.

[922 words]

5 Responses to A review of Onward Muslim Soldiers. By Robert Spencer.

  • Four years have passed since Robert Spencer wrote this book. I have not long finished reading Robert Spencer’s latest book, ‘The Truth about Muhammed’,2006.
    And yet we see little understanding in responses from political, journalistic or religious leadership.
    Kaysar Trad is saying that Israel is a terrorist state! But Islamist bombers have wrought untold death and destruction again in Iraq on their own kind. A point correctly made by Robert Spencer in his 2003 book.
    Perhaps we should start holding conferences and invite journalists, politicians, and Christian leaders on the psyche of Islam?
    Ray Robinson. Wollongong

  • Thanks Ray
    Actually his newest book is Religion of Peace? (2007). My review of it should be up in a day or two.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • There is a part of me that wants to believe that this is all paranoid nonsense but then I read this book as well as Preachers of Hate and The Suicide of Reason and I get real. The evidence is overwhelming that sinister forces are at work and that these forces are motivated by a literal interpretation of the Koran and Hadith. To say that “there are extremists on all sides” is to ignore the imperialistic nature of global jihadism in the name of Islam. Scary, scary stuff.
    Richard Blaquiere, Canada

  • Another excellent writer on Jihad is Lebanese American academic Walid Phares. In his first book “Future Jihad” he explains the background to extreme Islam in a way that will shed light on every action in the war against the West. Like writer Brigitte Gabriel, he suffered from the Islamisation of Lebanon, a once predominantly Christian country, and was forced to leave. He wants to save the West, and, with his knowledge of Arabic and the Muslim mindset, he writes from the standpoint of one who has followed extremist Chat-rooms for many years. He quotes the Jihadists themselves. He describes the “mollification” of the West, in which, through the Arab funding and hence infiltration of academic institutions over 40 years, our diplomats, academics and media have all been taught never to think about what is really going on. It is happening now in Australia. Our media is silent on so many issues. Israeli babies can have their throats slit in Itamar in March and it does not even get onto our TV news. But if an Israeli builds a house, that is an obstacle to peace. According to Jihadists, “peace” means capitulation.
    Ruth Rosenberg

  • Thanks Ruth

    Yes you are right – Phares is very good as well, and certainly vital reading. And you are certainly correct about our very biased MSM.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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