Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam
10 April 2010
A little while ago I read The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) by Robert Spencer.
In summary, I would say that this is a pretty good book, giving the reader a broad overview of Islamic history and Islamic practice today. Its tone is more popular than scholarly, although there are plenty of quotes and footnotes. There are also numerous side-boxes throughout each chapter which give additional information related to the main text. If you click on the book cover image to the left, which will take you to Amazon.com, and then click on the book cover image on Amazon.com's page, you can take a look through first six pages of the first chapter to see for yourself.
In the first nine chapters, grouped together in a section called "Islam", Spencer shows from the life of Muhammad, the Qur'an, and Islamic tradition that Islam truly is a violent, aggressive religion, whose goal is to take over the entire world, so that every one on earth will have an Islamic future. An entire chapter is dedicated to the horrible oppression women suffer under Islam, while another chapter discusses Islam's incompatibility with art, music and science. All throughout this section, you get a clear picture of Islam's negative attitudes towards non-Muslims, especially Christians and Jews.
The next five chapters are dedicated to the deeply contentious topic of the Crusades. Spencer builds a case that the Crusades were defensive action against Muslim aggression — a point of view which I had not really considered before. He thinks it likely that Islam would have conquered Europe during the Middle Ages if not for the Crusades. While there is truth and validity in the case Spencer builds, I'm not sure I totally agree with all of his conclusions. For example, I don't agree that the Crusades were "uphold[ing] the honor of Christ and His Church". In fact, I believe just the opposite, that the Crusades where a huge and tragic dishonor of Yeshua (Jesus) and His Church. They may have had some worldly military and political value, but spiritually they were a disaster, and a black period of Church history.
I have been pondering this topic of "Christian violence and Christian non-violence" for quite a while now. I definitely plan on writing a future article to cover every angle of the issue in-depth. As with any topic in the Christian life, the ultimate authority is what the New Testament says about it. While the New Testament does allow violence and force to be used by governments to keep the peace and to punish wrong-doers, there is a totally different standard when it comes to the behavior of individual believers not acting on behalf of the State. Yeshua and all of the writers of the New Testament were most definitely pacifists — no ifs, ands or buts! Except for the passages in the book of Revelation which describe God's Last Days judgments against the world, I don't believe that you can find one verse in the entire New Testament that encourages or sanctions Christian violence.
The remaining four chapters of the book are grouped into a section entitled "Today's Jihad". Here Spencer talks about what Islam is trying to achieve in our world today, the consequences for those speaking out against or resisting Islam, and a list of things that must be done in order to defeat Islam, both domestically and internationally. Unfortunately, all of his suggestions for action are political in nature. There is only one method that has any chance of bringing real change. As I mentioned in a previous article, the great call to Christians of our day is to dedicate their lives, and their deaths, to bring Muslims to a relationship with Yeshua, the Jewish Prince of Peace. Anything less is doomed to failure.
So, even though I don't agree with everything in this book, and even though the style in which it is written slightly detracts from the credibility of the material presented, and even though the suggested action items are on a humanistic political level, I still think this is a valuable book that is well worth reading. It definitely gives the reader a good understanding of the issues facing us as we are drawn inexorably into our Islamic future. In closing, let me leave you with a short extract from the book.
Is every religious tradition equally capable of giving rise to violence? This notion, widespread as it is, would have a lot more credibility if Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell were writing articles defending the stoning of adulterers (as did the Switzerland-based Muslim writer Hani Ramadan, who published an article in the French journal Le Monde in September 2002 doing just that), or calling for the killing of blasphemers (blasphemy is a capital offense in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Islamic world), or flying planes into the iconic buildings of those they consider enemies.
That evangelical Christians do not commit these acts is one clear indication that not all "fundamentalisms" are equivalent. Contrary to the deconstructionist views that prevail on college campuses today, religions are not simply raw material that can be fashioned into absolutely anything by believers. There is considerable overlap in the behavior of religious people in all traditions. For example, they pray, meet together, and perform certain rituals. Sometimes they even commit violence in the name of their religion. But the frequency and commonality of such acts of violence — and how close they are to each religion's mainstream — is determined to a great degree by the actual teachings of each religion. Islamic apologists like to point to Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph as examples of Christian terrorists, but there are three reasons why McVeigh and Rudolph are not equivalent to bin Laden and Zarqawi:
  • They did not even attempt to justify their actions by reference to Christian Scripture or tradition.
  • They were not acting on mainstream Christian teachings.
  • There are not large Christian groups around the world dedicated to implementing the same teachings.
The difference between Osama bin Laden and Eric Rudolph is the difference between aberrant acts and aberrant teachings. Any human being with a belief system can do abominable things. But abominable acts are more likely to come in greater numbers and frequency when they are encouraged and perpetuated by religious texts and those who teach from them.
For more books by Robert Spencer, see The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran and The Truth About Muhammad.