Skip to comments.Onward Muslim Soldiers
Posted on 01/05/2004 5:32:07 PM PST by freeforall
Onward Muslim Soldiers
An Essay-Review by Hugh Fitzgerald
Habent sua fata libelli, wrote the Roman. Books have their dates, and books have their fates. Onward Muslim Soldiers (Regnery Gateway), by Robert Spencer, was published in the spring of 2003, but by the very nature of its subject matter it does not date. And as to its fate? In a rightly ordered world, its fate would be clear: the book would be translated into all major languages; it would be on the shelves and, more importantly, in the minds, of all those whose duty it is to instruct us. For Onward Muslim Soldiers explains, clearly, scrupulously, meticulously, the central political tenets of Islam (not the tenets of "political Islam"), that make so many of its adherents such a threat to the entire non-Muslim world -- the world of Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Confucians, agnostics, atheists and others. Though few non-Muslims seem to realize it, they face not a "war on terror" ("terror" is merely a tactic, and by no means the most effective one), but a world-wide Jihad, or war to extend, through many instruments, the dar al-Islam until all non-Muslims, ultimately, are subjugated to the rule of Islam. It sounds fantastic, but it is deeply rooted in an ideology that is not tangential but central to Islam. And all non-Muslims are the targets of this military, economic, propagandistic, and demographic campaign. Spencer links the latest pronouncements of Bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, Sheikh Rantisi of Hamas, and others not only to such 20th century writers as Hassan al-Banna, Qutb, Mawdudi, and Abdullah Azzam, but to the central texts of Islam: Qur'an and hadith (the sayings and acts of Muhammad). As the "gates of ijtihad (interpretation)" closed more than a millennium ago, these texts, and the tenets they give rise to, cannot be changed or interpreted away. "Moderate" Muslims (often thrusting young academics in the West) who suggest otherwise, are often wilfully misleading. The behavior of those "moderates" who deny central teachings of Islam, and who are not engaged in such wilful deception, may have other explanations -- ignorance, filial piety, or simply embarrassment. In fact, it is the so-called "extremists" who articulate what is mainstream and orthodox Islam, and who would have been so regarded by any Muslim writer of significance in the past, from al-Ghazzali to Ibn Khaldun.
Spencer shows us just where in the Qur'an and hadith (relying on the most authoritative collections of ahadith, such as the Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim), hostility and aggression toward non-Muslims have been expressed, and forever fixed. Whatever else it may be, the Qur'an is also a manual of war, and it gives a great deal of attention to the Unbeliever, his perfidy, his hostility, and what must be done with him. When the founder of the Muslim brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, wrote that "Islam is to dominate and not to be dominated," he was merely echoing words of Muhammad. When muhajideen invoke deception as a religiously-sanctioned weapon to protect the faith and fight the Infidels (a doctrine known as taqiyyah, or kitman, depending on the branch of Islam involved), they are following Muhammad's declaration that "war is deception." Every remark of Bin Laden is firmly rooted in Islamic teachings; whatever else he may be, neither Bin Laden nor his fellows can be described as renegades, or unorthodox. Orthodoxy is on their side.
In a rightly ordered world, the fate of Spencer's book would be clear: the book would be translated into all major languages; it would be on the shelves and, more importantly, in the minds, of all those whose duty it is to instruct us.
Most of Spencer's attention is on the Jihad. He explains that central to the belief-system of Islam is the doctrine of Jihad, the "struggle" to enlarge the borders of the dar al-Islam (the House, or Abode, or Domain of Islam, where Muslim populations predominate and Muslim rule is established) until it completely swallows up the dar al-Harb (the House, or Abode, or Domain of War, where non-Muslims still remain unsubjugated to Muslim rule). Jihad is a solemn religious duty, and the surest way to Muslim Paradise is not to have a lifetime of good works, of charity and mercy, but to die in the service of Jihad, fighting Infidels. He quotes copiously from the Qur'an and also from the hadith, or Traditions, the sayings and acts of Muhammad, which are equally important in Islamic belief; both Qur'an and hadith gave rise to the shari'a, the Holy Law of Islam, which enshrines Muslim attitudes toward non-Muslim peoples whom early Muslims conquered. It is regrettable that some Western statesmen, such as Blair, appear to believe that a weekend spent reading a paperback Qur'an (sans notes or explanatory material) makes them suitably conversant with Islamic teachings, and they need study no further. Such misinformation is dangerous; if those at the top do not have the time to study the matter, they should ensure that members of their staff study the matter, to put paid to the notion of a "religion of peace and tolerance."
Spencer explains the best-known excerpts routinely invoked by Muslim apologists, and brings to bear both the classical commentators, and what Muslim history reveals about the application of these excerpts to dealings with non-Muslims. Calm, unruffled, humorous, he offers quite a contrast to the humorless hysteria of
those Muslim spokesmen, with whom, over the past year, on radio, television, and Internet, he has entered the lists. He explains how, by the Islamic doctrine of naskh, or abrogation, the later, more aggressive verses "cancel" the earlier, milder ones. He is enviably familiar with these passages, and cannot be cowed by bullying Muslim opponents; consequently, they are reduced either to silence, or to torrents of abuse. For them, Spencer is the worst sort of opponent -- he knows. Islam as a belief-system contains both the rituals of individual worship and aspects that comprise a geopolitical program of conquest of non-Muslim lands and the subjugation of non-Muslims. The rituals of individual worship include the Five Pillars: the shahada (Profession of Faith), the zakat (required charity not to fellow men but only to fellow Muslims), the salat (the five daily canonical prayers), Ramadan (the month-long abstention from eating during the day), and the hajj. Save for the last, which does have some frightening aspects as an expression, by representatives from all over the umma al-islamiyya, of Muslim solidarity and hostility to non-Muslims, the Five Pillars are largely unthreatening. And that is why they form virtually the only aspect of Muslim belief and practice to which we are directed by the small army of apologists abroad in the land. Similarly effective are appeals to an utterly false solidarity among the three monotheistic faiths: "we are all monotheists"; "we are all People of the Book." If they are truly believing Muslims, they represent a permanent threat to the well-being, beliefs, and entire way of life of non-Muslims. That, too, is made clear by a reading of Onward Muslim Soldiers.
Both conversion of Infidel peoples and the much higher Muslim birthrate lead inexorably to gradual takeover of non-Muslim lands from within, where outright military conquest would be impossible.
Spencer is unfoolable and unflappable. He shows how Qur'an and hadith, embodied in the shari'a, or Law of Islam, have always promoted the Jihad against all non-Muslims. Jihad is not an invention of a "handful of extremists"; it does not date from the twentieth but from the seventh or eighth centuries. He shows how once conquered, subjugated non-Muslims become dhimmi (from ahl al-dhimma, or "people of the pact") -- a misleading word translated as "a member of the 'protected people.'" They are protected, of course, from the Muslims themselves, who otherwise would kill, or forcibly and immediately convert, these "protected peoples." Spencer shows that Jihad and dhimmitude work together, first to conquer, then to consolidate the hold of the Muslim conquerors over initially far larger populations of conquered non-Muslims. Islamic doctrine is used to explain and justify the oppression of the conquerors, even to make it palatable to those conquered by offering them an ideology (a religion) which contains bits and pieces of the pre-existing religions of those conquered -- both of Western religions, Christianity and Judaism, and those of Persia, Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism.
The status of dhimmi is linked to Jihad, for it follows immediately upon the initial successful conquest. It imposes a status of permanent humiliation, degradation, and insecurity (witness the massacres and forcible mass conversions of "protected peoples" throughout Muslim history, despite their supposed "protected" status). The host of financial, legal, economic, political, religious, and social disabilities inevitably led to the slow asphyxiation of non-Muslim communities, which became "islamized" as non-Muslims, and then, under intolerable pressure, gradually succumbed to Islam and, in most cases (Persia being the great exception), became "arabized" as well, in language, customs, and even in entirely fictitious Arab lineages created and adopted by non-Arabs (all those "Sayeeds" in Pakistan).
Spencer understands the importance of ideas. The tenets of Islam, few and simple in nature, are based on an updated version of Manichaeism: a division of the world not between Good and Evil, but between Muslim and non-Muslim. There must ultimately be the conquest, and then subjugation, of the latter by the former. This is natural, right, and in accordance with the will of Allah. No other outcome is possible, however long it takes. Such a result may be furthered by what we call terrorism. It may be furthered through traditional military combat, or qital. It may be furthered by the use of "wealth" -- that is, economic warfare, involving boycotts and bribery (chiefly of diplomats, journalists, and assorted fixers). It may involve propaganda (the virtual takeover of the UN and its subsidiary organizations by Islamic forces, expressed most obviously in the permanent kangaroo courtroom, with Israel perennially in the dock, of the General Assembly).
Finally, there is the latest, and most potent weapon of Jihad -- that of demography. It is discussed openly in the Muslim world as a weapon of Jihad. Only in dar al-Harb itself is the subject strictly forbidden from being raised: it might offend Muslims. The mass movement of Muslims to the dar al-Harb, where their presence, under Infidel rule, is ordinarily forbidden under Islam, is now justified by Muslim theologians, who see it as promoting Islam. Both conversion of Infidel peoples and the much higher Muslim birthrate lead inexorably to gradual takeover of non-Muslim lands from within, where outright military conquest would be impossible. It is a strategy that is succeeding, The failure of so many to defend their own civilization properly is an example of base ingratitude to the tens of thousands of thinkers who created that civilization, and who would not have been tolerated for one minute under Islam.
Many lives and many dollars might be saved if a sufficient number of people throughout the Infidel world were to read, understand and thoroughly assimilate Onward Muslim Soldiers. Spencer cuts through the sentimentalism, fear, confusion, and ignorance in the West carefully exploited by Muslim apologists. Like Ibn Warraq and Bat Ye'or, Robert Spencer is beholden to no one; he writes and works on his own. He does not need to worry about what Muslim colleagues or old friends may think; he can allow himself the greatest luxury of all: the freedom to tell the truth. Spencer lucidly introduces us to the daily fare of many hundreds of millions of Muslims repeated throughout the khutbas (sermons) delivered at Friday Prayers from New Jersey to the Philippines, from Capetown to Stockholm, and forming the attitudes, and creating the atmospherics, in which most Muslims, even if they live in the West, lead their lives. Onward Muslim Soldiers is the clearest and most intelligent guide to what the "war on terrorism" really is: a war of self-defense, by non-Muslims, a war imperfectly understood and imperfectly articulated by those whose duty it is to instruct and to defend us against the Jihad. Jihad has remained central to Islam; local Jihads, from China (1930), to India (the Moplah Insurrection), to Israel (one long Jihad against the Infidel state), to the Moro Islands, Sulawesi, East Timor, Pakistan, Bangladesh, all punctuate the 20th century. Dhimmitude can be seen expressed in a variety of modes: in the recent imposition of shari'a laws even on Christians in Nigeria, Pakistan, and the Sudan. But until an accident of geology endowed Muslims with the wherewithal, a worldwide Jihad, using the full range of instruments, was not possible. Now the 5-6 trillion dollars that OPEC states have received in the last 30 years has helped to buy hundreds of billions of dollars in arms, to corrupt diplomats and journalists, to build mosques throughout the dar al-Harb and madrassas throughout the dar al-Islam. Only in one case, Kemalist Turkey, has Islam effectively been defanged in relation to the Infidels -- and that requires constant vigilance by the Turkish army, with never an assurance that the Kemalist experiment will prevail.
No one has shown how the fixed and immutable doctrines of Islam that have been a permanent threat to non-Muslim peoples and polities for nearly 1400 years can possibly be changed. A long-term standoff, as in the Cold War, is the best one can hope for. And just as in that war it was the realization, by Communists in Russia that their system had failed, it may be that eventually a sufficient number of its own putative adherents will recognize that Islam, created in the seventh century as a fighting faith to promote and justify conquest of vast areas beyond the Arabian peninsula, is inadequate -- politically, economically, intellectually, and morally -- for the modern world. This recognition must come from within. It will come only when the full failure -- the lack of human rights or a modern polity that transcends both tribalism and a solidarity limited to fellow Muslims, the inability to create a work-ethic or a modern economy, the absence of a tradition of free, critical, and skeptical inquiry, the refusal to accord equal rights to women or non-Muslims, the cultivated hostility toward all non-Muslims, reaching murderous dimensions at times -- can no longer be hidden or disguised.
These failures have been obscured as Islamic states and peoples have been maintained on the artifical life-support system of OPEC money, and Western aid. The former should be diminished to the greatest extent possible; the latter eliminated altogether, and migration to the dar al-Harb stopped. When Islamic rulers and peoples finally are convinced, as Ataturk was, that disaster can be avoided only by completely isolating and suppressing political Islam (and that would require a real, not feigned, recognition of the damage it does, not least to its own adherents), there may be the possibility of a modus vivendi with the more advanced and powerful non-Muslim world, which otherwise is going to lose patience. The experiment of an Islamic Republic in Iran has failed utterly, and Iranians have felt that failure. For a generation or two political Islam will be despised in Iran. But as with Kemalism in Turkey, the possibility of a permanent disavowal remains unlikely: how, after all, does a Muslim permanently disavow central tenets of Islam? That is why, no matter what reforms are instituted, non-Muslims will have to remain permanently vigilant.
Only in Kemalist Turkey has Islam effectively been defanged in relation to the Infidels -- and that requires constant vigilance by the Turkish army.
The "war" of self-defense against the Jihad will not be over in 10 years, nor in 100 years. And in this war, where the enemy follows Muhammad's definition of war as "deception," non-Muslims must begin by understanding the enemy. The media are full of grim tidings that can be described as Jihad news. Some persist in believing that this Jihad news, from all over the world, is caused only by a "handful of extremists" who have "hijacked a great religion" (Variant 1) or "by fundamentalist Wahhabis" (Variant 2); both are wrong. Adherents of Islam, both Sunni and Shi'a, and within Sunni Islam, all four main schools of Muslim jurisprudence, share the same beliefs concerning the Infidels. Those who persist in avoiding these tenets, or in presenting a tortuous or guarded account, end up avoiding much in the 1350-year history of Islam. Those non-Muslims, including scholars, who practice such apologetics help, objectively, to further the Jihad. Thus, they constitute a danger to the rest of us. Spencer's book, especially in the current atmosphere of confusion, is an indispensable guide and vademecum.
One hopes that many thousands of copies of Onward Muslim Soldiers may be bought by some far-sighted Maecenas, and distributed to every important maker of policy, and molder of opinion, in Washington and New York. It would be money well spent.
Hugh FItzgerald is a lecturer on the manipulation of language for political ends.
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