A rebuttal of Robert Spencer’s view on Islam’s desire to dominate the west

July 25, 2011
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Let me state first and foremost that I do not believe the Qur’an is the word of God, I do not believe in Islam and I surely do not believe in the hadith. If I did, I would have been a Muslim. There are, however, 1.2 billion Muslims who believe in the Qur’an one way or another. This fact is reason enough for anti-Islamists to create some kind of reference frame where they put things out of context or as an outright fallacy. One of the fallacies about Islam’s desire to rule the world is centered around verse (ayat) 29 of chapter (sura) 9 of the Qur’an, which states:

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. [1]

This verse, and it’s fundamentalistic interpretation is referred to numerous times in the manifest by massmurderer Anders Breivik. Robert Spencer, publisher of jihadwatch.org, who challenged me on this particular topic of Islam domination, writes about this verse:

Verse 29 of chapter 9 of the Qur’an is the one place where Muslims are directed explicitly to make war against and subjugate Jews and Christians – the “People of the Book,” who once subjugated enter the dhimma, the protection of the Muslims, and become dhimmis, protected (or guilty) people. As such, the way this verse is understood by Muslim interpreters is of cardinal importance for Jews, Christians, and – not least because in the Islamic world one’s religion tends to be considered as part of one’s ethnic identity, not as a matter of personal conviction, so that even Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens would be considered Christians — non-Muslims in general. [2]

He also states (in part 2) that the latter part of this verse “mandates the humiliation of non-Muslims.” A claim that I find quite suggestive; it seems like Spencer tries to smear Islam with some unique kind of evilness. When I pointed out to Spencer that he puts this verse out of context, he challenged me to show him the context as I see it. He must have assumed that I would be nagging him about the scriptural context, but I will leave that to others. Instead, as in my lecture of 2008, I will point here to the historical context.

All conquering or battling groups will want to subdue their opponents; it is how the social construct was and how constituencies were formed. It was my favourite philosopher, Bertrand Russel, who put these cruel practices in perspective: [3]

Emphasizing that humiliation is a must according to Islam and this particular verse is a fallacy which has no base in scholarly discourse as it is purely a matter of Spencer’s personal interpretation, based on his personal beliefs. Furthermore, humiliation is a big word, and in the context of which Spencer puts it, it would have been leading to genocide, which it didn’t. Dr. Evelin Lindner, social scientist and psychologist, describes the term “humiliation” in her book Making Enemies:

The word humiliation refers to three different elements of the experience—the perpetrator’s act, the victim’s feeling, and the social process. [4]

While humiliators (political or religious) generally go through a process of elimination, the Muslims instead usually offered a process of inclusion (by way of conversion or paying a special tax, Jizya). It is hard for us, modern people, to judge Alexander or 17th-century Charles II as thieving and looting, humiliating subduers. In fact, we call them “The Great” and “King” respectively, with much respect.

Spencer has this specific talent to put things out of context and make-believe, and by using the word “humiliation” he creates a subliminal sense in the reader that the perpetrator is utterly evil-minded. Obviously, Spencer can claim of assimiliation of the conquerors in the conquered lands or societies, but that is a half-baked excuse. First, one has to understand the political tendencies at that particular time. Alexander was supported, indeed blessed, by Aristoteles to conquer the world, since he was a superior Macedonian. And Charles II had his own priests on the ships that were conquering the world. Second, is Spencer of the opinion that Alexander, Charles II and other conquerors didn’t loot the conquered societies or lands? Didn’t they have to pay their unfair share of their version of Jizya (special tax)? As sad it has been, history has been full with these kind of looters and conquerors; it is not unique, nor confined, to some evil Muslims.

Again, a much-heard argument is that anno 21st century there is no one who has the same violent and conquistador attitude while Muslims still have to believe in their dictate of making war and subjugating as per verse 29. But that is just fundamendalistic mythmaking; there is ample resistance in the Islamic world to the way Spencer and others interpret it. However, Spencer simply dismisses them, as he thinks that the majority of Muslims want to act out the fundamentalist interpretation of this verse. He writes:

Islamic apologists in the West today commonly assert that 9:29 commands warfare only against the Jews and Christians who fought against Muhammad, and no others. I wish that every Muslim believed that, but unfortunately that has never been the mainstream Islamic understanding of this verse. Indeed, if it had been, the Pact of Umar, which I detail above, would never have been made — for it was made after Muhammad’s death with Christians against whom he did not fight. That in itself, as well as the teachings of all the schools of Islamic law, illustrates that this verse was always understood as having a universal application. [5]

I believe that Umar has corrupted many parts of the Qur’an and Islamic belief as he was a political ambitious zealot, but that is for another time. Spencer claims that the mainstream Islamic understanding of this verse has always been of the extreme fundamentalistic kind. However, he is wrong, yet presenting his own interpretation as fact.

According to Spencer, Muslims should shed the warmongering ideals of the Qur’an, but they already have. Of course, just as there are fundamentalist Jews, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs, there are also fundamentalist Muslims. But just like we cannot blame all Christians for the bombings by Timothy McVeigh or Anders Breivik, we cannot blame all Muslims for the atrocities of their lunatic fringe.

People like Spencer focus on the evilness of Islam, and do it with an intensity that I can only psychologically diagnose as deep hatred. According to Spencer, there is nothing good about Islam. In the chapter “Islam and Christianity: Equivalent Tradition?” of his book, Political Incorrect Guide to Islam, Spencer gives ample evidence of the crookedness of Islam and its proponents. He even quotes Bertrand Russel saying,

“Bolshevism combines the characteristics of the French Revolution with those of the rise of Islam… Among religions, Bolshevism is to be reckoned with Mohammedanism  rather than with Christianity and Buddhism. Christianity and Buddhism are primarily personal religions, with mystical doctrines and a love of contemplation. Mohammedanism and Bolshevism are practical, social, unspiritual, concerned to win the empire of this world.”

Spencer, however, does not mention the good things Russel had to say about Islam and its effects.

I could write endlessly on this topic, but I rest my case with the fact that while the great majority of Muslims are further from the Dar-ul-Harb or Islamization fantasy that Spencer ascribes to them, tens of millions of Europeans and Americans are now believing in the same fundamentalistic interpretation of the Qur’an as the Taliban, which they hate. While the majority of Muslims sleep at night in peace, thinking of their mortgage, job and kids, the majority of Islamophobes are worried about their so-called evil intentions. Some of them, like Breitvik, who quotes Spencer several times in his lunatic manifest, take up arms and start killing innocent people whom they blame of hypocrisy or multiculturalophilia.

[1]  http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/quran/009.qmt.html

[2] http://www.jihadwatch.org/2007/12/blogging-the-quran-sura-9-repentance-verse-29.html

[3] Authority and the Individual, Bertrand Russel, Reith BBC Lectures, 1948

[4] Making Enemies: Humiliation and International Conflict, Evelin Lindner, 2006, Praeger Security International, Westport, (CT), VS, page xiv

[5] http://www.jihadwatch.org/2007/12/blogging-the-quran-sura-9-repentance-verse-29-part-2.html

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