Bruce Thornton reviews my essay collection The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims at Victor Davis Hanson’s Private Papers:
One of the greatest impediments in our war against jihadist terrorism is the misinformation, half-truths, and outright lies about Islam entertained by many of our public intellectuals. Examples are easy to find; here’s one from the otherwise intelligent Gregg Easterbrook, Atlantic Monthly contributor and senior editor at The New Republic, from his recent book The Progress Paradox: “Most Muslims are good-hearted, peace-loving people, just as are most Christians and Jews. A small minority of Muslims are vicious fanatics. But then the Christian ethos has spawned its share of hideous killers, among them the terrorist Timothy McVeigh, and this tells us nothing about the typical Christian.” The obviously false analogy in the last sentence “” McVeigh didn’t kill with the sanction of Christian theology or belief, which has no doctrine remotely close to jihad, and millions of Christians didn’t dance in the streets after the bombing in Oklahoma City “” could stand as a textbook example of this logical fallacy.
Such ignorance “” on display everywhere in the media, especially among those eager to rationalize away the Islamic roots of the latest terrorist murder “” makes a book like The Myth of Islamic Tolerance particularly important. Robert Spencer, in earlier books like Islam Unveiled, Onward Muslim Soldiers, and the recent The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades, as well as on his invaluable website Jihad Watch (jihadwatch.org), has already done yeoman’s work in documenting Islam’s fundamental intolerance, martial aggressiveness, and sanctioning of violence against non-Muslim infidels. The 58 essays in the current book attack root and branch the widespread Orwellian myth, recently given cinematic sanction in Kingdom of Heaven, that Islamic societies have been historically more tolerant and friendly to minorities than has been Western culture.
Spencer sets the stage with an overview of the myth, its political uses, and its refutation by the simple facts of history and Islamic jurisprudence and theology. Politically, the myth provides psychic comfort for jaded Westerners, especially Europeans, who have made the devil’s bargain to accept large numbers of Islamic immigrants as a source of cheap labor: “European states eyeing the rapid growth of their Muslim populations console themselves with tales of old al-Andalus, reassuring one another that Islamic hegemony not only wasn’t all that bad “” it was a veritable golden age.” Thus European and American politicians cater to Islamic immigrants, whom they believe will assimilate into Western society, their “tolerant” and “peace-loving” religion merely enriching the multi-ethnic tapestry.
But as Spencer points out, and as history and Islamic doctrine show repeatedly, “Islam doesn’t accept a position as just one among a community of disparate religions but must struggle to make itself supreme.” Unable to prosecute militarily the divine mandate to expand the House of Islam until it encompasses the whole world, modern jihadists have been adept at manipulating the various cultural pathologies of the West. As Ibn Warraq points out in his Foreword, the old myth of the “noble savage,” the habit of idealizing more primitive or alien non-Western cultures in order to castigate one’s own, has from the beginning of Western contact with Islam distorted the understanding of it. Later, Great Power geopolitical contests reinforced these European idealizations of Islamic societies, particularly the Ottoman Turks. The result has been centuries of mythic idealizations that continue to obscure the true nature of Islam, leading to the strange phenomenon we see nearly every day: non-Muslim Westerners “hastening,” as Spencer puts it, “to assure the public that the Islam of the terrorists is not the ‘true Islam,’ which is, they maintain, a benign and tolerant thing.”
Eager to display their sensitivity to and tolerance of the cultural “other,” apologists like those Spencer liberally quotes end up arrogantly asserting that millions of practicing Muslims don’t understand their own religion. But of course the jihadists know what their religion teaches about non-Muslims: they are categorically inferior infidels, particularly the “People of the Book,” Jews and Christians, “renegades who have rejected this final revelation [of Muhammad] out of corruption and malice and who have exchanged truth for falsehood.” They are accursed, and as such, it is the duty of every Muslim “to fight them,” in the words of the Qur’an, “until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah.” In a later verse this injunction is specifically directed against Jews and Christians: “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 [a special tax on non-Muslims] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”
Read it all.