Karen Armstrong is a comically conceited feminist ex-nun who has assumed the duty of defending Islam from its critics. Yesterday”s Financial Times carried her review of an unflattering biography of Mohammed by the American Catholic scholar Robert Spencer.
Armstrong went ballistic. She is herself the author of a sanitised life of “the Prophet” (as she calls him, despite not being a believer) that she grandly offered as “a gift to the Muslim people”.
She accused Spencer of “writing in hatred” and said he “deliberately manipulates the evidence”. By the end of the day, Spencer had hit back online. Very hard. We have the beginnings of a mighty feud here, and I know whose side I am on.
According to Armstrong, “When discussing Mohammed’s war with Mecca, Spencer never cites the Koran’s condemnation of all warfare as an “˜awesome evil”.” There’s a reason for that, replies Spencer: the Koran doesn’t quite say that.
Writing on his website Jihadwatch yesterday, Spencer challenged his readers to find the relevant verse. Someone did. It’s 2:217, and it refers specifically to warfare in the “sacred month”, and then only to say that the prohibition can be set aside. So who is manipulating evidence here?
Armstrong reckons that descriptions of Islam that focus on its warlike origins are like “a description of Christianity based on the bellicose Book of Revelation that failed to mention the Sermon on the Mount.”
That is an unbelievably fatuous and sloppy analogy. The violence of Revelation springs from the imagination: it’s a literary apocalypse. It doesn’t describe any real events. Mohammed was a general whose army beheaded its captives: that’s a fact. The Muslim scriptures urge warfare against unbelievers and apostates; the Christian scriptures preach non-violence.
Read it all.