EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – AUGUST 20, 2008
By Rich Trzupek
Apologists for Islam frequently assert that it is a religion of peace, corrupted by a few, violent fanatics. Is this true? Author Robert Spencer challenges this commonly held belief, forcing us to consider the question: if Islam is indeed a religion of peace, what sort of peace did its founder envision?
In his book “The Truth About Muhammed”, and at his website, jihadwatch.org, Spencer makes a convincing, and frightening, case that today’s Muslims face an uncomfortable choice: follow the teachings of the Prophet, as recorded in the Quran and the hadiths (oral traditions that recorded the words and deeds of Muhammed) without exception, or choose to put these teachings into historical context and ignore those aspects that are troubling to a modern, civilized people.
It is difficult to do the latter, given that the Quran is, by definition, the perfect word of God for Muslims. For most Christians and Jews, the Bible and Torah are subject to degrees of interpretation, since these books are believed to be God’s word translated through the imperfect filter of human hands. Thus, for example, most Christians and Jews will not take the “eye for an eye” reference in Exodus as a Divine Directive, but will rather consider it in historical context and moderate the message. Indeed, for most Christians, “turn the other cheek” trumps “an eye for an eye”, as it should.
Such relief is, according to the Quran, not allowed in Islam. God’s Word can not, must not, be altered. The life of the Prophet is, according to Islam, the perfect life that every Muslim should seek to exemplify. What sort of life, Spencer asks, was it? The answers, in many cases, are troubling to western sensibilities. So troubling in fact that many of us, – in the public sector, in private and in the media – choose to shy away from asking the hard questions.
Spencer’s detractors, and there are many, would like to paint him as a right-wing nut job, trying to fan the flames between Judeo-Christianity and Islam. They will point out that, although he is trained in theology, he is not a Muslim scholar. They will claim that he is taking things out of context. They say all of this, and much more, but the one thing that no one has said (to my knowledge), or can say, is that he gets his facts wrong.
In “The Truth About Muhammed” Spencer sticks to three sources: the Quran, the most respected hadiths, and Muhammed’s most trusted biography. All of these sources are commonly used, and referenced, in the Muslim world. Critics may claim that he is casting an unnecessary spotlight on the troubling aspects of these works, but they can not say that those passages do not exist.
It is the law in the Islamic Republic of Iran, for example, that a man may enter into and consummate a marriage with, a nine year old girl. This tradition can be traced directly to Muhammed who took, as one of his brides, a girl of that age.
Let’s stop there for a moment. In Muhammed’s time (7th century A.D.) child brides were not uncommon. Spencer does not condemn the practice in its proper historical context, nor should we. But today? While the western world considers sex with a prepubescent child pedophilia, Iran (and some other Muslim theocracies) embrace it. Indeed, they must embrace it, or they must think the unthinkable: that Muhammed got it wrong.
When one of Muhammed’s wives, Aisha, was accused of infidelity by certain gossips, the prophet was troubled. But God (most conveniently, in this writer’s judgment) was ready with another revelation that would set Muhammed’s mind at ease. God declared that the gossips were wrong, because – among other things – they could not produce “four witnesses” to prove the accusation.
This test – “four witnesses” – became the standard, under Islamic law, for proving sexual crimes like rape. Not surprisingly, since one would have to pretty damn stupid to commit rape in front of four witnesses, rape is almost unknown (officially, that is) in the Muslim world. Unofficially, as many a Muslim woman has attested to, it’s another matter entirely. Indeed, if a Muslim woman accuses a man of rape in a country under Islamic law, and if she can not produce the required “four witnesses”, chances are she is going to jail. The logic of the religion dictates that such a woman has confessed to having sex outside of marriage (forbidden), but can’t prove that it was non-consensual (less than four witnesses), therefore it must have been consensual, ergo – she’s a whore and whores go to jail.
There are passages in the Quran that are hauntingly beautiful, even given the handicap of a translation. There are passages (frequently quoted by apologists) that preach love, compassion and tolerance. These passages exist and Spencer freely acknowledges them.
But there are other, darker passages that we must consider too. The Prophet, at times, enjoins his followers to sympathize with “the people of the book” (Christians and Jews) who have acknowledged the primacy of God. But, as he grew older, Muhammed was frustrated by the obstinacy of these peoples. Christians and Jews, in the final analysis, were to be granted a choice when living under Islamic rule: 1) convert, 2) worship as ye please, but pay a tax to your Islamic rulers and keep your religion under strict wraps, or 3) die. Freedom of worship, as the west understands the concept, is not an option under Islamic law.
That is the truth of what the Quran and its prophet espouse. This the world to which the leaders of Iran, Hamas and other conservative Islamic groups aspire. Muhammed enjoined his followers to establish an Islamic kingdom throughout the earth and promised them that such a day would come. It is time that we, in the west, come to grips with this reality and, as we shall see in part 2 of this series next Wednesday, much more.