On November 10, 2003, I was scheduled for a one-hour interview on the superlative talk show host Larry Elder’s show. Our conversation proved so engrossing that Elder held me over for a second hour, and out of the many hundreds of radio interviews I’ve given, this was one I always remembered. Apparently Elder did also, as he recently printed partial transcripts of the interview on his blog. Here is a bit of the first: “Islam: A Religion of Peace? Part I,” by Larry Elder, May 12, 2014:
In light of the recent kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls and the boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel due to the Sultan of Brunei imposing sharia law, I think it’s time to revisit my interview with Robert Spencer, author of Onward Muslim Soldiers. Here is Part I. Part II follows tomorrow.
Islam: A Religion of Peace? Part I
by Larry Elder
A “religion of peace,” says President Bush about Islam. But investigative journalist Robert Spencer, in his new book Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West, argues that what we call “Islamic extremism” stems from a straightforward reading of the Koran and interpretative Islamic texts.
On November 10, 2003, I interviewed Spencer.
Larry Elder: Is Islam a religion of peace that’s been hijacked by Islamic extremists, as George W. Bush says?
Robert Spencer: There are millions of peaceful Muslims…but the fact is that radical Muslims are using core text of Islam that are deeply rooted in Islamic theology, tradition, history, and law to justify their actions, and those radical Muslims are able to recruit and motivate terrorists around the world by appealing to these core Islamic texts….As far as the radical, violent elements of the religion go, they are very deeply rooted and we are naïve in the extreme if we don’t recognize that and try to get moderate Muslims to acknowledge it so that real reform can take place.
Elder: Have some translations of the Koran taken out the more extreme statements?
Spencer: The only Koran that really matters is what’s in Arabic, because as far as traditional Islamic theology goes, Allah…was speaking to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel, and the language is intrinsic, can’t be separated from the message. The fact is that what’s in Arabic is very clear…but in two opposite directions. What you have are very many verses of peace and tolerance, and also very many verses sanctioning and mandating violence against non-believers.
…You find many moderate Muslim spokesmen and American-Muslim advocates in this country, who quote you the peaceful and tolerant verses, and no reference to the violent verses….When you read Islamic theologians themselves…you find they actually confront this problem directly….Some of the most respected thinkers in Islamic history say that when you come upon these kinds of disagreements—where you see peace in one place and violence in the other—you have to go with what was revealed last, that cancels out what was revealed before. Unfortunately, for the moderates, the violent verses were revealed later and they cancel out the peaceful ones—but you won’t hear this from the American Muslim advocacy groups.
…What we need to see is a forthright acknowledgement of it and reform from moderate Muslims themselves, the same way that the Pope has apologized for the Crusades and Christianity at large…has repudiated the theology that gave rise to them. So we need to see…moderates on a large scale repudiating the theology that has led to violent jihad which the radicals are using to justify their actions.
Elder: You write, “Muslims must present non-Muslims with the three choices of Sura 9:29 of the [Koran]: conversion, submission with second-class status under Islamic rule, or death.”
Spencer: Correct. This is a deeply rooted tradition in Islam. Islam is unique among religions in having a developed doctrine theology in law that mandates violence against non-believers. Not all Muslims take it seriously, but the radicals do, and they are working to recruit and motivate terrorists. So…whenever anybody says we want to institute Sharia Islamic law in a country, they mean these laws. They do not provide for the equality of rights and dignity of non-Muslims in a Muslim society…[but] mandate just the opposite—that non-Muslims are not to be given equality of rights, but denied various jobs because they’re not allowed to hold authority over Muslims.
They must pay a special tax called the jizya which is referred to in the verse you mentioned….Their humiliation and inferior status is enforced with numerous other regulations, still part of Islamic law, and liable to be enforced by radical Muslims and who want to gain power and institute Islamic law.…Anybody who is concerned about human rights would be resisting and be happy to join in the War on Terror….