April 17, 2003




Disturbing Questions about the World’s Fastest-Growing Faith


Robert Spencer

Encounter Books, 2002, 214 pp. 


 Spencer is a board member of the Christian-Islamic Forum.  A 20-year student of Islam, he has written for National Review Online and other magazines.


“In this captivating, carefully researched book, Robert Spencer asks the hard questions about Islam and gives the hard answers, providing a profoundly needed antidote to the wishful thinking and willful distortions that have swamped the media since September 11.”  (from the cover)


The heavily footnoted book examines Islam in relation to peace, moral values, human rights, respect for women, democracy, secularism and pluralism, science and culture, and tolerance. 


“The problem is that for all its schism, sects and multiplicity of voices, Islam’s violent elements are rooted in its central texts.  It is unlikely that the voices of moderation will ultimately silence the militants, because the militants will always be able to make the case that they are standing for the true expression of the faith.”  And the majority of Muslims around the world accept the interpretation of fundamentalists.  (37)


“The Muslim world today is full of bigotry, fanaticism, hypocrisy and plain ignorance—all of which create a breeding ground for criminals like bin Laden.”  quoting Amir Taheri, Wall Street Journal, 24 Oct., 2001  “Violent Islam has the enemy (us) and the scriptural justification (in the Qur’an) to keep pushing until they win—that is, until the West is Islamicized.  And moderate Islam is essentially powerless to stop it.”  (37)


Slaveholding today is practiced only in Muslim lands.  “Chief responsibility for this must be placed upon the Qur’an.  Slavery, especially of war prisoners, is taken for granted throughout the Muslim holy book.”  (63)  Muslims almost universally believe the Qur’an is valid for all time; therefore those who try to develop arguments against slavery are vulnerable to charges they are disobedient to Allah.  (64)


“In Sudan and Mauritania, the Muslim record on slavery is not a matter of history but of current events.”  “The primary reason someone will be enslaved in Sudan is because he or she is a Christian.   …the Arab Muslims in the north are in the process of stamping out black Christianity in the south by imposing the Sharia over the entire country.”  (65) 


“Muslims never shared the experience of early Christians, of being a persecuted minority within a hostile regime.”  “State power and religious power were fused in Islam from its inception, centering on the caliph as the leader chosen by Allah for his people.”  “…the Islamic world has always been marked by the centralization of theocracy.”  (95)


“The Qur’an presents the clear and absolute law of Allah (which the mullahs uphold).  Why should Muslims be governed instead by fallible human judgment?  A state ruled by Islamic law must therefore leave little room for representative government; God’s Will is not to be established by voting or public opinion.”  (96)


According to scholar Bernard Lewis, predominantly Muslim societies (Turkey being the exception), are ruled by a variety of “authoritarian, autocratic, despotic, tyrannical, and totalitarian regimes.”  (97)

  1. Traditional autocracies (Saudi Arabia and Gulf sheikhdoms)
  2. Modernizing autocracies (Jordan, Egypt, Morocco)
  3. Fascist-style dictatorships (Syria, Iraq)
  4. Radical Islamic regimes (Iran, Sudan)
  5. Muslim former Soviet republics (in a period of transition)


Secular Muslims risk death from hardliners who consider them to have fallen away from the faith.  A considerable party of Muslims would fight to the death the prospect of a secular Islamic state.  (105-6)


“Islam is a religion with revolutionary implications.  Rulers are considered legitimate only if they enforce the…holy law of Islam based on the teachings of the Koran.” Quoting Philip Mansel (107)


“In the Muslim world, Islam is the only key to the hearts and minds of the people.”  Khomeini’s message in Iran was to “restore the purity of Islam.”  (109)  “Every government that goes too far in implementing Western principles encounters religious resistance.”  (110)


“Desire to restore the purity, and thus the glory, of the umma is also the impetus behind the rise of Osama bin Laden and other Muslim terrorists today.  Setbacks in the Islamic world commonly result in the diagnosis that the defeat resulted from insufficient religious fidelity.”  “In other words, the key to success is more Islam.  This has always been the reaction in times of crisis.” (111)


“The Koran promises that if Muslims are faithful to Allah, they will enjoy prosperity in this life and paradise in the next life.”  “When the House of Islam is not prospering, it is solely because ‘Muslims are not following the true teaching of Allah!”  quoting Dinesh D’Souza.  “A new severity invariably follows.”  (111)


“Muslims built their great medieval civilization with an attitude of openness to what they could learn from non-Muslims.”  “Islam in its glory days never hesitated to borrow from other cultures.”  (118)  But an orthodox thinker, Al-Ghazali, advanced the premise that everything human beings can possibly know is already contained in the Qur’an.  “Islamic philosophy became suspect to a large party of those who considered themselves guardians of religious orthodoxy.”  An anti-intellectualism developed from the core theological proposition that since the Qur’an is the perfect book, no other books are needed.  (122-23)


“Jews and Christians believe that God created the universe to operate according to reliable, observable laws.  While he can suspend those laws, ordinarily he does not do so; he is not bound, but freely chooses to uphold the laws that he created.  This way of thinking provided a foundation for the edifice of modern science….”  (127)


“But to the Muslim who found all knowledge in the Qur’an and suspected philosophers of infidelity, that was tantamount to saying, ‘God’s hand is chained.’  Allah, they argued, could not be thus restricted.  He was free to act as whimsically as he pleased.  If one could not rely on the universe to obey observable laws, and if reliable knowledge was found only in the revelation, science could not flourish.”  “Philosophy and science came to be widely seen as essentially worthless endeavors that only confuse man and distract him from the Qur’an.”  (127-28)


“In the face of increasing Western prosperity, the Muslim ambivalence toward intellectual endeavor and the non-Muslim world threatens to become explosive.”  (128)  “If the West’s technological superiority can’t be matched, it can at least be assaulted.”  (129)


“Virtually all Westerners have learned to apologize for the Crusades.  Less noted is the fact that these campaigns have an Islamic counterpart for which no one is apologizing….”  “Islam originated in Arabia in the seventh century.  At that time Egypt, Libya and all of North Africa were Christian and had been so for hundreds of years.  So were Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Asia Minor.”  Also Turkey and Greece.  “But then Muhammad and his Muslim armies arose out of the desert, and these lands became Muslim.”  “…Muslims won these lands by conquest and, in obedience to the words of the Qur’an and the Prophet, put to the sword the infidels therein who refused to submit to the new Islamic regime.”  The Muslim drive went to the heart of France where it was turned back in 732.  (132-34, 36)


“Centuries later, when Muslim armies resumed their expansion in Europe after a period of relative decline…they maintained the same pattern of behavior.  On May 29, 1453, the city of Constantinople, the jewel of Christendom, finally fell to an overwhelming Muslim force after weeks of resistance….”  (137)


“…the Crusaders who pillaged Jerusalem were transgressing the bounds of their religion in all sorts of ways.  As for the Muslim armies who murdered, raped, pillaged and enslaved—what Islamic principles were they violating?  After all, they were following the example of their Prophet….”  (137)


“In fact, the portions of ancient Christendom that are now universally considered to be part of the House of Islam only became so in the same way as the Arabian Jewish tribes became Muslim: by being bathed in blood.”  (138)


“The Crusade was a delayed response to the jihad, the holy war for Islam, and its purpose was to recover by war what had been lost by war—to free the holy places of Christendom and open them once again, without impediment, to Christian pilgrimage.” (quoting Bernard Lewis).  “The lands in dispute during each Crusade were the ancient lands of Christendom….”  (139)


“The Jihad is more than four hundred years older than the Crusades.  It is the Europeans who harbor the shame and the guilt.  It should be the other way around.”  (quoting historian Paul Fregosi) (140)


“Today, in Christianity generally—Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant—the idea of the universal dignity of all people, unbelievers as well as believers, has taken firm root.  Indeed, that idea has been one of the Church’s great gifts to secular society, and one of the singular discoveries of the

West.  In Islam, by contrast, the theory about infidels has not changed, and it can always cause more pain for human beings when given the opportunity.”  (155) 


“In Islamic states, non-Muslims are still despised, hemmed in by discriminatory laws, and in peril of their lives.”  (156)  “Perhaps worst off are converts from Islam to Christianity, for virtually all Muslim legal authorities agree that anyone who renounces Islam deserves to die.” (157)


“In fact, the worse off the House of Islam is, the more threatened are its Christian minorities.  When things are going wrong, Muslims tend to blame the infidels among them for calling down the wrath of Allah.  So they purify the land and court Allah’s favor by killing them.”  “That is also why Christians and Jews will always be in danger of persecution in Islamic lands.”  (164)


“There are not two, but three certainties in human affairs: death, taxes, and jihad.”  (165)  Greater jihad is first inward-seeking, to struggle to improve himself.  “Lesser jihad cannot be separated from the waging of war.”  “According to classic Islamic theology, Muslims can legitimately wage war against those who resist the proclamation of Islam.”  “But of course, that is precisely what Osama bin Laden says that the September 11 attacks were doing.”  His interpretation is firmly rooted in Islamic law.  “The theory of jihad allows for the unchecked growth of militant groups in Islam—growth which outmanned and outgunned Islamic moderates are powerless to stop, because to do so would be to turn against Islam itself.”    (166-68)


“Enough Muslims believe that they have ample cause nowadays to ‘combat belligerency’ that Americans should prepare themselves for a long hard war.”  (169)


In France, Islam is the second-largest religion in the country.  (171)


“As these numbers [of Muslims] continue to expand among Europe’s aging, secularized populations, Europe will be, in the words of the CIA, ‘less willing to face up to global hotspots’—and presumably even less willing when to do so will entail making war against the homelands of large segments of its population.”  (172)


“The idea of multiculturalism…dictates that they not assimilate, but rather cling proudly to their Islamic beliefs and traditions.”  (172)


“It would be imprudent to ignore the fact that deeply imbedded in the central documents of the religion is an all encompassing vision of a theocratic state that is fundamentally different from and opposed to the post-Enlightenment Christian values of the West.”  (173)


“The culture of tolerance threatens to render the West incapable of drawing reasonable distinctions.  The general reluctance to criticize any non-Christian religion and the almost universal public ignorance about Islam make for a lethal mix.”  (174-5)


“Militant Islam will not go away with the death of bin Laden, or Arafat, or Saddam Hussein, or anyone else.  It will clash increasingly with the weary secular powers that it blames for all the ills of the umma.”  (176)