Sunday, September 25, 2005

Nancy Kobrin Reviews ''The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam'

What You Can't Say About Islam
By Nancy Kobrin
September 23, 2005

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)
By Robert Spencer
Regnery Publishing, Inc.: Washington D.C. 2005

To order a copy, click here.

Recently, I was invited to teach 300 law enforcement officers about Islam, radical Islam and Islamist terrorists. It was an honor and a privilege, but it was also difficult work: It is no small task making sure that these officers, really our first line of defense in the war on terrorism, fully understand both the history of Islam and the motivations of those who are willing to murder in its name.

But it is especially challenging for the officers. Beyond being able to distinguish moderate Islam from more extremist strains, they must be on good terms with the local Muslim community in order for its members to trust them with sensitive information, which, at times, must be turned into actionable intelligence. They are not afforded the luxury of time. The question before them is no longer if Islamic suicide attacks will occur but when and where.

Equally as important, they must understand why. Why do terrorists lash out in the name of Islam? To explain this to my officer students, I attempted to demystify the somewhat exotic light in which Islam is too commonly held. I recounted the history of Islam, pointing out that the five Pillars of Islam have their equivalents in Judaism because the prophet Muhammad had borrowed extensively from the Jews with the hope that they would convert. When that didn’t happen, I noted, he turned to jihad. Still, despite my reliance on everything from PowerPoint presentations to video clips, I struggled to come up with more vivid images that might shed light on why this supposedly peace-loving religion drives some of its adherents to commit acts of mass murder.

If only I had Robert Spencer’s new work, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and The Crusades), my teaching would have gone much more smoothly.

Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch, an invaluable web site that daily informs readers of Islam’s global jihad, cuts right to the chase in this absorbing antidote to the received wisdom about Islam. He turns his attention to the most problematic nature of Islam: its ideologies of warring. In this context, Spencer discusses not just the more gruesomely familiar form of jihad, suicide attacks, but also jihad in the form of Islamic proselytizing, da’wa, in which prisoners are pressured to revert to Islam. (It is “revert” instead of convert because Islam holds that we were all born Muslim, except that our parents lost the correct path, the sabil, and raised us incorrectly.) Spencer also examines Islam’s hostility to women, as well as its historical denigration of religious and ethnic minorities living under Islamic rule, Ahl al-Dhimma.

Spencer repeatedly demonstrates that jihad is part and parcel of the fabric of Islam; it is ingrained in the very ideologies of the holy text, the Qur’an. Spencer minces no words. Two of his chapters are aptly subtitled “Religion of War” and “Religion of Intolerance.” He also takes remarkably precise aim at the politically correct myths that preclude an honest discussion about Islam.

Chances are, you’ve heard them all: “The Qur’an teaches believers to take up arms only in self-defense;” “The Qur’an and the bible are equally violent;” “Islam is a religion of peace that has been hijacked by a tiny minority of extremists;” “Islam was once the foundation of a great cultural and scientific flowering;” “Christianity and Islam spread in pretty much the same way;” “The Crusades were an unprovoked attack by Europe against the Islamic world;” “The Crusades were fought to convert Muslims to Christianity by force;” “The Crusades were called against Jews in addition to Muslims;” “The Crusades were bloodier than the Islamic jihads;” and “The Crusades accomplished nothing.”

Against such feel-good bromides, Spencer quotes Ibn Warraq, a Muslim apostate and author who wrote that while there are moderate Muslims, Islam itself is not moderate. Most people are in denial when it comes to this candid observation. As for the misunderstood Crusades, Spencer sets the record straight: the Crusades were waged as a defense against the relentless onslaught of Islamic jihad. My favorite PC myth—concerning the supposedly Great Golden Age of Islamic Spain—is convincingly laid to rest by Spencer.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam is replete with useful, and user-friendly informational boxes. One such box traces current jihadist behavior back to the life and times of Muhammad, thereby proving the degree to which Islam is influenced by the warlord mentality of the prophet. Another box contrasts Muhammad’s bellicosity with the peaceful message of Jesus: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44), while Muhammad’s ideology is one of power: “Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know.” (Qur’an 8:60) Not exactly the pacifist portrayed by conventional wisdom.

Another valuable feature of the book is the list of bullet points that accompanies each chapter. Titled “Guess what?” it presents some uncomfortable truths about the Islam. For instance, turn to Chapter 6, “Islamic Law: Lie, Steal, and Kill,” and you discover the following: Islam’s only overarching moral principle is “if it is good for Islam, it’s right.” Spencer does not flinch from pointing out that “Islam allows for lying, as well as stealing and killing in certain circumstances,” and that “This leads to large-scale deception campaigns today.” You won’t hear that from the peddlers of political correctness.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Spencer’s book is its timeliness. Islam is widely acknowledged to be the world’s fastest growing religion, but few know just how fast. In fact, Islam is estimated to have reached 1.5 billion adherents thereby surpassing Christianity’s 1.2 billion faithful and dwarfing Judaism’s world-wide population at a mere 13-15 million. Leading counter-terrorist expert, R. Paz, who heads Prism, (The Project for the Research of Islamist Movements,, recently told the Christian Science Monitor that while most Muslims are in the moderate camp, "If we're talking about percentages, maybe the supporters of global jihad are only 1 percent of the Muslim world.'' That means, then, that there are about 15 million would-be Muslim terrorists.

In other words, the need to understand Islam will only grow more urgent. Spencer has done a remarkable job lifting the veil on its tenets. Previously, the failure to counter the specious arguments of Islam’s politically correct defenders may have been understandable. Similarly, many could be forgiven for doubting whether Islam could really show so little capacity for seeking middle ground. Now, with the publication of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), they no longer have an excuse.

To order a copy of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), click here.

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Nancy Kobrin is an affiliated professor to the University of Haifa, Arabist, psychoanalyst and author of the upcoming book, The Sheikh's New Clothes: Islamic Suicide Terror and What It's Really All About.

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