Robert Spencer has written or edited several outstanding works on Islam and the challenge it poses to a free West. This book, part of the Politically Incorrect Guide to… series is a more informal, easier-to-read version of his earlier works. Thus there is not too much new material here if you have read his earlier volumes.
But having a more popular level volume on this subject is important, if for no other reason that people are busy and pressed for time. So a volume like this with its important contents can be scanned through in several hours.
Spencer covers a number of important issues. One major topic is that of the Crusades. Of course whenever people express concern about Islamic terrorism, and ask whether Islam is really a religion of peace, the usual tactic is to raise the issue of the Crusades. The implication is that the Christian West is no better than Islam, and perhaps worse, because of the Crusades.
And the Crusades are often dragged up by Muslim apologists almost as an excuse for present day jihad and terrorist attacks. It is as if the Crusades justify modern terrorist movements. Thus Spencer devotes a good third of this book to examining the issue of the Crusades in some detail.
Spencer discusses the reasons why the Crusades began, and clears up a number of myths surrounding them. In short, he argues, it is more accurate to view the Crusades as a defensive war, a reaction to 400 years of Islamic expansion and imperialism. The attempt to reclaim the Holy Lands and rescue Christians was a big factor in the Crusades.
While much excess of violence took place, and the Crusades were far from perfect, they do need to be seen in context. A number of points are raised by Spencer. For example, he cites Muslim authorities who in fact claim that Muslims tended to fare better in lands taken by the Crusaders than in Muslim lands!
And as for the 1099 sack of Jerusalem, yes it was barbaric in many ways. Yet it was not out of line with standard military practices of the day, be they Western or Muslim. Indeed, Muslim commentators of the day took a rather laconic interest in the whole matter. It was only later that this episode in particular, and the Crusades in general, became ammunition in the Muslim propaganda wars.
And what about equally odious Muslim offensives, such as the sack of Constantinople in 1453? While we constantly hear Westerners today apologising for what we did or did not do long ago, one hardly ever hears Muslims apologising for this event, or the massacre of the Armenians from 1915 to 1917, or dozens of other major Muslim atrocities. Where is the hand-wringing over these acts? Why are only Western shortcomings highlighted?
Spencer also examines the practices of Islam over the centuries: its oppression of women, its denial of freedom of conscience; its totalitarian nature, and its justification of jihad. Consider this last issue, for example. Many will argue that jihad is not really to be understood literally, that Islam is a religion of peace, and that only extremist Muslims practice violence. Not so, argues Spencer: “violent jihad warfare against unbelievers is not a heretical doctrine held by a tiny minority of extremists, but a constant element of mainstream Islamic theology”.
Thus all four major Sunni schools of jurisprudence agree on the importance of jihad. Indeed, “Islam is unique among the religions of the world in having a developed doctrine, theology, and legal system that mandates warfare against unbelievers”. Spencer cites chapter and verse (or sura) from the Koran, along with sayings from the hadith (traditions) and examples from the life of Muhammad and his followers which make clear that the use of force is a mainstay in Islam, not an aberration.
Many other myths about Islam are here convincingly dealt with. Spencer concludes by reminding us that we are in a war. It is a war “between two vastly different ideas of how to govern states and order societies”. In this struggle “the West has nothing to apologize for and a great deal to defend”.
The differences between Islamic sharia law and totalitarian rule and Western freedoms and democracy are very real indeed. The two cannot co-exist. One will prevail, and Spencer knows which one he would have persevere.
He finishes with four simple proposals: Western foreign aid must be tied to the treatment of non-Muslims in Muslim nations; global alliances need to be reconfigured on this same basis; Muslim nations must renounce sharia expansionism; and the West must embark upon a full-scale search for alternate energy sources, so that we no longer have to rely on Middle Eastern oil.
All in all this brief volume contains a lot of helpful information. Many myths and misunderstandings about the nature of Islam and its threats are carefully dealt with here. While such information does not mean that we treat individual Muslims disrespectfully, it does remind us that there are two different ways of life competing for supremacy, and we need to be aware of this struggle and fortified with the right information. This volume helps us in that task.