Sir, Karen Armstrong in her review of my book The Truth about Muhammad says I do not mention Koran 29:46, in which Allah instructs Muhammad to tell Jews and Christians that “we believe what you believe; your God and our God is one”. In reality, I discuss this verse twice (pp 17 and 51). She also says: “When discussing Muhammad’s war with Mecca, Spencer never cites the Koran’s condemnation of all warfare as an ‘awesome evil’ “. Yet the verse she quotes (2:217) actually says only that warfare during the “sacred month” is an “awesome evil”, and adds: “Persecution is worse than killing.”
This verse was revealed after a Muslim raid on a caravan of Muhammad’s pagan enemies: the raid took place during a sacred month, when war was forbidden. But the pagans were allegedly persecuting the Muslims, so this verse absolves the Muslims of guilt for the raid – since “persecution is worse than killing”. So the verse Ms Armstrong uses to claim the Koran teaches that war is an “awesome evil” actually justifies the setting aside of a moral precept for the benefit of the Muslims.
Ms Armstrong’s assertions that in Islam “only self-defence justifies armed conflict” and that the Koran directs Muslims to “lay down their arms and accept any terms offered, however disadvantageous” are false. Muhammad’s earliest biographer, Ibn Ishaq, traces three stages of development in the Koranic doctrine of warfare, culminating in offensive warfare to establish the hegemony of Islamic law by force.
Mainstream Islamic teachers have taught this throughout history; contemporary jihad theorists have used this doctrine to revive jihadist sentiments among peaceful Muslims today.
Ms Armstrong says my book was “written in hatred”. Unlike her, I adhered scrupulously to the historical record; any hatred in the book comes from the Islamic sources I quote, not from me.
Financial Times left out the beginning and the ending of my letter. Here’s the beginning:
In my book The Truth About Muhammad, I show that Karen Armstrong misrepresents the testimony of the historian Tabari about the age of Aisha, wife of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Armstrong asserts that “Tabari says that”¦the marriage was consummated there later when she had reached puberty.” But Tabari actually quotes Aisha thusly: “The Messenger of God married me when I was seven; my marriage was consummated when I was nine.” Armstrong shows a similar disregard for truth in her review of my book.
And the ending:
It is a sign of the all-pervasiveness of political correctness that anyone takes Armstrong, with her consistent disregard for accuracy, seriously at all.