Jamie Glazov interviews me at FrontPage about some of the implications of Bhutto’s death, and has some very kind words at the end of the interview. Thanks, Jamie.
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Robert Spencer, a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of seven books, eight monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Religion of Peace?
FP: Robert Spencer, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Spencer: Thank you, Jamie. I always appreciate your invitation to discuss important matters.
FP: Aside from all the controversy over the Bhutto assassination, one thing is certain: the suicide bomber that was involved in the assassination was clearly acting in the name of jihad. This form of suicide was obviously an act of Islamic martyrdom that the killer was perpetrating. He was acting against the forces of the infidel which he believed Bhutto had become complicit with. This has been the perpetual thesis of Al Qaeda and jihadis in regards to Bhutto.
So, the suicide bomber wasn’t a person who headed out to simply kill himself. This person was carrying out an act of Muslim martyrdom and through his death he believed he would be gaining a higher other-wordly reward, as all Muslim suicide bombers do — the virgins, the purest wine, etc. (Koran, Sura 55, verses 54-56; Sura 56, verses 12 -40; Sura 76, verses 12-22, etc.)
So, inspired by Islamic theology, and guaranteed by Islamic theology that he will be rewarded for his act, this murderer participated in the killing of Bhutto through the form of self-annihilation.
This crime and tragedy, therefore, has been spawned by Muslim beliefs and aspects of the Muslim religion. And now masses of Pakistanis are very angry that Bhutto has been killed and guess what? They burn a car, they destroy the windows of a bus, they scream with rage, they demonize and blame Musharaff, they demonize and blame George W. Bush. And the outcry against the theology that engendered the murder of their beloved leader? Silence. The demands that Muslim clerics throughout the world issue fatwas against suicide bombings? Silence. The demands for an Islamic Reformation that will reinterpret/nullify the Islamic verses promoting martyrdom? Silence. The demands that Muslim clerics throughout the world issue fatwas against Al-Qaeda, the entity that has bragged that it is responsible for the Bhutto assassination? Silence.
A pathological and bizarre script, no? Or am I missing something here?
Spencer: Unfortunately, Jamie, you”re quite right. What we are seeing in Pakistan and around the world over the last week is still more denial and evasion of responsibility by the very Islamic authorities who should be engaging in some serious reflection and self-criticism over the forces they have unleashed in Pakistani society by preaching the sacredness of violence and hatred. They have created in Pakistan , with its madrassas that have been identified by numerous observers including Colin Powell as “universities of jihad,” a culture of aggression and intransigence.
And because those who have created that culture are the self-appointed guardians of the religious purity of the nation, they have effectively placed the things that nurture this culture of violence off limits for criticism. Pakistan “s notorious blasphemy law makes any critical examination of the elements of Islam that jihadists use to incite violence and justify terrorism impossible. There is no call for an Islamic Reformation that will reinterpret or somehow nullify the verses of the Qur’an that promote suicide martyrdom (notably, 9:111) because even to call for such a thing would be portrayed by the Islamic religious authorities as blasphemous, and hence criminal. Nor is this the only way the clerics obstruct Pakistan “s societal development. When the Musharraf regime last year tried to institute laws that would take rape out of the area of Sharia judgment and judge it according to modern canons of forensic evidence, Islamic clerics led the fight against the new measure on the pretext that it would turn Pakistan into a “free sex zone.” There cannot even be a fatwa declaring Al-Qaeda un-Islamic, because too many Pakistanis have bought into the notion that Al-Qaeda is just the opposite of un-Islamic, but is truly what it proclaims itself to be: the representative of pure, true Islam.
The masses of Pakistanis who are angry that Bhutto has been killed have no good choices. After Bhutto was killed, President Bush and many of the presidential candidates expressed their support for the democratic process in Pakistan . However, given a September poll showing Osama bin Laden enjoying the approval of 46% of Pakistanis, with 66% believing that the United States is engaged in a war against Islam and 43% approving of Al-Qaeda, it is entirely within the realm of possibility that free democratic elections in Pakistan would lead to the election of a pro-Osama, pro-jihad government — just as elections in the Palestinian Authority led the jihad terror group Hamas to power. Musharraf is odious, but he may be in many ways better than the jihadist alternative.
FP: You have pointed out that Islamic clerics oppose taking rape out of the area of Sharia judgment. Tell us what it means when rape is in the area of Sharia judgment and what it has meant to the women of Pakistan and what it means to any woman who lives under Sharia.
Spencer: Pakistan’s President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988) implemented the Hudood Ordinances in 1979. Hudood crimes are those considered most serious in Islamic law. These laws returned the crime of rape to the realm of Islamic law, making a rape victim liable to being prosecuted for adultery if she could not produce four male Muslim witnesses who would testify that they had actually witnessed the rape.
This law comes from the Qur’an. Accusations of adultery against Muhammad’s favorite wife, Aisha, and Muhammad’s desire to exonerate her brought about the requirement that four male Muslim witnesses must be produced in order to establish a crime of adultery or other sexual indiscretions: “Why did they not produce four witnesses? Since they produce not witnesses, they verily are liars in the sight of Allah” (Qur’an 24:13; see also 24:4 and Bukhari, vol. 3, book 52, no. 2661).
Aisha’s own word counted for nothing to establish the falsity of the accusations against her — so to this day Islamic law restricts the validity of a woman’s testimony, particularly in cases involving sexual immorality. Says the Qur’an: “Call in two male witnesses from among you, but if two men cannot be found, then one man and two women whom you judge fit to act as witnesses; so that if either of them commit an error, the other will remember” (2:282). And Islamic legal theorists have restricted women’s testimony even farther, limiting it to, in the words of one Muslim legal manual, “cases involving property, or transactions dealing with property, such as sales” (“˜Umdat al-Salik, o24.8). Otherwise only men can testify.
Consequently, it is even today virtually impossible to prove rape in lands that follow these Sharia provisions. As long as men deny the charge and there are no witnesses, they get off scot-free, because the victim’s account is inadmissible. Even worse, if a woman cannot produce four male witnesses, she may end up incriminating herself simply by making the charge: she has by charging a man with rape made an admission of adultery. That accounts for the grim fact that, according to the Muslim feminist group Sisters in Islam, as many as seventy-five percent of the women in prison in Pakistan are, in fact, behind bars for the crime of being a victim of rape.
FP: Osama bin Laden enjoys, as you point out, the approval of 46% of Pakistanis. I am sure that a large percentage of these Pakistanis would argue that Islam is a religion of peace. What kind of mindset holds these two dispositions simultaneously?
Spencer: A very strange mindset, Jamie, but it’s a common one. Once I received a death threat from a man in Pakistan who wrote to me: “I will be violent against anyone who hurts muslim feelings about Prophet. It is a religion of peace for everyone until some duckhead sprews out his damn saliva on a senstive topic as this. Spencer will be delivered.” The irony of what he was writing seems to have been lost on him.
Nor is this idea solely the province of kooks. The internationally influential jihad theorist Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) maintained that violent jihad is a necessary part of establishing true peace, which equals the supremacy of the Sharia: “When Islam strives for peace, its objective is not that superficial peace which requires that only that part of the earth where the followers of Islam are residing remain secure. The peace which Islam desires is that the religion (i.e. the Law of the society) be purified for God, that the obedience of all people be for God alone, and that some people should not be lords over others” (Milestones, p. 63). That is, peace is established when Islamic law rules a society.
FP: As you say, free democratic elections in Pakistan will most probably lead to the election of a pro-Osama, pro-jihad government. If that happens, what key dangers will we be facing?
Spencer: I hope that doesn’t happen, Jamie, but there is considerable evidence that the jihadists enjoy significant support. Besides the poll I cited above, there is another recent poll showing that 60% percent of Pakistanis favor a “larger role in Pakistan law” for Sharia, with only 11% thinking that role should be reduced. A Sharia state in Pakistan would be set against Infidel polities as a matter of principle. If it had control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, the result could be catastrophic for Israel and for the United States as well.
FP: What are the overall challenges confronting us in the post-Bhutto era?
Spencer: The primary decision that the United States has to make in reference to the Islamic world is whether it is going to continue to support democracy as mere head-counting, or stand up for the principles and values of Western civilization insofar as the Islamic jihadists are challenging those principles and values. Some Western observers, including my old sparring partner Dinesh D”Souza, have said that if Islamic states vote in Sharia, the West should applaud the democratic process and have nothing more to say. That approach puts me in mind of that great American statesman, Stephen A. Douglas, the originator of the concept of popular sovereignty. Regarding slavery in Kansas he said, “I care not whether they vote it up or vote it down,” as long as the will of the people was expressed and carried out.
I believe, on the other hand, that we have too many Douglases today, and no Lincolns. We should stand up against Sharia and point out that under it, women will be subject to restrictions on the value of their testimony (cf. Qur’an 2:282) and their inheritance rights (cf. Qur’an 4:11), and made vulnerable to religiously-sanctioned beating (cf. Qur’an 4:34). Non-Muslims will be subject to restrictions on their freedom of worship and made to pay a special tax. Non-Muslims would not be considered equal to Muslims before the law.
Many Muslims don’t want to live in such a Sharia society, but they have nowhere to turn, because no one dares to speak out against these forms of oppression. I think we should stand up for those Muslims, and not hold to the mystical power of the vote even to the point of supporting elections that end up disenfranchising and relegating to inferior status large segments of their societies.
To break this paradox, we need a leader with the courage, the insight, and the will to say that he or she believes in the rights of the individual as delineated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (for all the limitations of that document, and they are severe, it enshrines Judeo-Christian principles of human rights as universal, including the freedom of conscience and the equality of dignity of all people, both of which are denied by Sharia), and thus opposes Sharia.
We should not forget that wherever Sharia is imposed, the jihad ideology and Islamic supremacism have not been far behind, and have set large segments of the Sharia society (if not its leadership, although the House of Saud is a highly questionable case) against the U.S. and the West. So not to oppose Sharia when it is voted in is to sit by passively and witness the adoption of a system that will ultimately make the United States more enemies.
FP: What policy must the U.S. pursue toward Pakistan now in your view?
Spencer: There is no easy solution. I am certainly not advocating that the U.S. topple Sharia regimes around the world. I do think we should adopt a defensive anti-Sharia posture, and oppose its encroachment in the U.S. and Europe, as well as in Pakistan. We should publicly announce our readiness to aid all secular, anti-Sharia forces in Pakistan, and make the aid we already give to the Musharraf regime contingent upon its adopting a much more stringent anti-jihadist posture.
FP: Robert Spencer, thank you for joining us.
Spencer: Jamie, it’s always a pleasure. As American Muslim advocacy groups continue to attempt to intimidate into silence all those, liberal or conservative, who would speak out against the Islamic supremacist threat, FrontPage stands out increasingly as a beacon.
FP: Well it is an honor to have a courageous scholar like you aboard. I must say that I follow your work and activism very carefully. It is of first-rate quality. And I have seen your critics call you a lot of names. And I have seen them attribute arguments to you that you yourself have actually never made — and then they shoot them down. And then I have seen them slander and defame you. But one thing I have yet to see is for one of your critics to engage you in an honest intellectual debate and to actually prove you wrong in anything you say. And forget even defeating you in an argument, till this date I have yet to see them even answer concretely and honestly one serious question that you have posed. I have a feeling I won’t be seeing this any time soon.
But I know I’ll be seeing you again here soon at Frontpage. It will be a pleasure. Take care.