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Article: Religion of Peace?

October 1, 2007

Exceprt of an interview with Robert Spencer:

You’ve written bestsellers on Islam — why did you decide to branch out and write about Christianity in your new book?

Because over the years I have countless times been confronted with the sins of Christianity, real and trumped up, as if they were somehow grounds upon which the deep roots of the jihadist ideology of Islamic supremacism in the Qur’an and Islamic theology and law could be dismissed.

This tendency has now metastasized into the Christian theocracy craze: the ever-growing number of books, some of them bestsellers, claiming that Christian fundamentalists (or sometimes Catholics) are bent on destroying the U.S. Constitution and instituting religious law. Meanwhile, it is a hard, never-to-be-questioned dogma among both liberals and conservatives that Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, and that it will only antagonize our Muslim friends to call upon them to acknowledge the existence of the elements of Islam that jihadists are using to incite to violence — which acknowledgment I, in contrast, believe is the only path to genuine reform.

So at length I have begun to see that the indictment of Christianity as equivalent to Islam is distracting us as a society from the reality of the situation we’re facing, and has become a way for people to dismiss, albeit in a knee-jerk fashion, the reality and magnitude of the Islamic jihad imperative. It was also sapping our strength as a culture that is steeped even now in Judeo-Christian principles to formulate any response to the cultural and civilizational challenge posed by the jihadists. That’s why this book concerns everyone, not only Christians: whether we are Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, whatever, we are all threatened by Islamic supremacism, which would remake Western societies utterly. If we do not value our own culture and heritage, we will not be able to defend it.

Can you give us any kind of numerical comparison between the amount of violence that’s inspired by Islam and the amount inspired by Christianity?

There have been over 9,000 terror attacks committed in the name of Islam and justified by Islamic principles since 9/11. How many terror attacks committed in the name of Christianity and justified by Christian principles were committed in that same span?

There’s clearly a quantitative difference between Islamic and Christian violence. Is there a qualitative difference, as well? You admit there has been violence committed in the name of Christianity (everybody knows about the Inquisition and the Crusades). What’s the difference?

Yes. There is no justification for violent acts committed by Christians, either in the Christian Scriptures or in the teachings of various Christian Churches. (I discuss the principal verses that many use to claim the contrary in the book.) But in Islam, all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach that it is part of the responsibility of the Muslim community to wage war against and subjugate unbelievers. So when a Christian commits an act of violence or terrorism in the name of Christianity, he is transgressing against the teachings of the religion, while a Muslim who commits an act of violence or terror in the name of Islam has ample justification to point to in the Qur’an and Sunnah. That’s the key difference, and it is important because it shows what capacity each tradition has and will continue to have to give rise to violent groups.

One of the most interesting things in your book is the evidence that the Bible’s most obviously violent passages — the Book of Joshua, Jesus’ hard sayings about “hating” your family — have not in fact inspired Christian religious violence. If both the Koran and the Bible have violent passages, why don’t both books equally inspire violence?

The passages that are pointed out in the Bible as violent are not equivalent to violent passages in the Qur’an. The open-ended command for believers to wage war against and subjugate unbelievers that we see in Qur’an 9:29 has no equivalent in the Bible. Also, the violent passages of the Bible are spiritualized by Jewish and Christian exegetes, while those in the Qur’an are presented quite literally by all too many Islamic preachers, and the mainstream interpretation of them is literal.

John Derbyshire has joked that your book really ought to be called “Why Christianity is a religion of peace and Islam isn’t, and how I wish it were the other way round!” Are you really a proponent of a more militant Christianity? Should we be waging a crusade?

I suppose it all depends on your understanding of “militant.” There is a long tradition of Christian theorizing on under what circumstances and how to wage war, and I think it could fruitfully be revisited, particularly in this age when Christian clerics so often mistake Democratic Party platform planks for manifestations of Christian piety, and when weakness of mind and will are confused with charity and humility. John Derbyshire, for all the admirable verve and humor of his writing, missed my fundamental point. This book is trying to answer the need to respond to the jihadists’ ideological challenge. We need a strong military response, although if best oriented toward containing jihad activity that may not take the form it now takes, but we have done nothing to answer the jihadists’ ideological challenge. Where is the Radio Free Europe of the counterjihad? Where are we standing up for the principles that have become universal, but are rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and are now threatened by Islamic supremacism?

A Crusade? Sure. A Crusade with a few differences from the old Crusades. A Crusade of Jews, Christians, and all others who face subjugation and annihilation by the jihadists. A Crusade that works on the level of ideas, issuing a counterchallenge to the jihadists’ cultural critique. Were this accompanied by a realignment of foreign policy in Western nations to reflect a will to fight against Islamic supremacism both militarily and ideologically, we might be getting somewhere.

Islam, as you describe it, doesn’t look all that easy to reform. In your opinion, do we have a better chance of persuading Muslims to give up jihad, or to give up Islam altogether — for an altogether different understanding of what God is like?

I think that neither one is very likely, and that while we need to continue to call for Islamic reform, and to call upon peaceful Muslims to address the elements of Islam that jihadists use to recruit and motivate terrorists, we shouldn’t have unrealistic hopes. We need to stand up for who we are and for our civilization, and certainly that will change hearts, but above all we need to stand firm.

Full interview here.

See also:
ZENIT: Modern Aftermath of the Crusades: Robert Spencer on the Battles Still Being Waged


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