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.