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Book Review: Religion of Peace? by Robert Spencer

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Robert Spencer, skewerer of PC-isms about Islam, its history, theology, and relationship with others, is back again. This time he targets the biggest myth of all, that Islam is a religion of peace. This is a myth that is perpetuated by such public figures as President Bush and Tony Blair. It forms part of the effort to claim that Islamists are some aberration that have nothing to do with Islam and its teachings. Like much of what is said about Islam this stems from ignorance, naiveté, and probably a dose of unwillingness to admit the truth.

The irony, of course, is that the words of Mohammed are there for anyone to see. Unlike Christianity or Judaism, whose sacred books were written down by those other than those whose words are quoted, the Koran is in fact the actual words of the man himself. Unlike the New Testament which is made up of transcribed oral histories of what Jesus did and said, all written decades after his death, the words in the Koran are those words “dictated” by Mohammad himself, if you so believe.

There are many Sunnah that dictate exactly what is to be done with unbelievers (ie kill them, tax/humiliate/enslave them or convert them) with especial emphasis on how to treat Jews, whom Mohammed spent some time slaughtering in his day. The New and Old Testaments have none such evocations, being merely a collection of parables about actual events that took place in biblical times. In fact Jesus repeatedly makes it clear that we should “turn the other cheek”.

The mistake that those trying to compare Christianity/Judaism and Islam make is they see all violence as equal in holy books. They mistake violence as told in a tale as the same as invocation to commit violence among believers. Yes, institutions of the Church have committed heinous crimes in the name of their Church; however Muslims have been committing similar and far worse crimes in the name of their religion. Spencer points out that more Jews were killed in a single massacre in Muslim-held Spain than were killed by the Inquisition in its entire history.

We all have to remember that Islam is a complete ideology, that encompasses all aspects of life from how much wife abuse is allowed to who it's permissible to kill in the name of your god.

Mostly this book aims at dispelling the moral relativity that is being peddled by the establishment in regard to Islam. He details how the left in the US and around the world use this moral relativity to downplay Islamist violence round the world by wheeling about such straw men as Timothy McVeigh (who said himself he was post-Christian) and the perceived “Christian theocracy” movement. Yes, there are loons out there who wish to turn the US into some theocracy but they are by no means dominant in politics or the mainstream.

While Spencer considers himself a Christian, I certainly do not claim to be one. It is possible not to believe the paranoia about Christians trying to take over the US and not be a Christian, hard though that might be for some to believe.

As with all of Spencer’s books he takes great care to poke holes through all the myths, paranoia, and propaganda surrounding how we deal with Islam. Like all the rest of his books, Religion of Peace? is an essential read for anyone wanting to learn about the threat the West faces. Not all religions are the same and Islam is not a religion of peace.

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About Marty Dodge

  • Impartial Pundit

    Right…these books that people like you call scholarly publications and documentaries are actually not accredited at all by any University press agency. All Spencer’s books must be looked at from a standpoint of specific political and ideological agendas. I can pull out a bunch of random, cherry picked quotes from a children’s book and make it look as bad as Spencer makes Islam look. He does not speak Arabic, and if you cannot speak Classical Arabic, then you surely cannot rely on a translation by some random person sitting here in the U.S. or abroad. His books are not expert analysis, but rather typical and precise innuendo with a sprinkle of anti-Semitism (All three religions are Abrahamic). For Muslims to kill Jews or Christians that are innocent, or citizens of a State or country is sac-religious and blasphemous. Do not rely on Spencer to point to anything credible, unless you find Fox news credible, in any sense of the degree.

  • someone

    @Impartial Pundit
    Clearly this book angered you since you realized that it spoke of something you had tried to suppress your whole life. The point u’ve presented is analogous to the point that you cannot see God thus he doesn’t exist. It isn’t compulsory for a muslim to be fluent in classical arabic to be a muslim, is it? Is the Quran accredited by any University press agency. Even if it is has it always been? Did the holy prophet not conquer nations with innocent people in them and impose jizya(tax) on them for being non muslims?

  • muhammed

    Prophet also married 8 year old girl and also married 13 girls whereas others were told to marry only 4. He fought in many wars and encouraged others to also fight back “An eye for an eye”(revenge). He also introduced jihad(popularly known as terrorism) against unbelievers.

  • Jordan Richardson

    It isn’t compulsory for a muslim to be fluent in classical arabic to be a muslim, is it?

    To be a Muslim, no. To properly and effectively critique the Koran, it’s probably a good idea to know Arabic in order to discuss the nuances of the original text. The construct of the book is such that an awful lot is lost in translation, for lack of a better phrase, and non-Arabic-speaking scholars can only go so far as to establish context, original meaning, and so forth.

    Did the holy prophet not conquer nations with innocent people in them and impose jizya(tax) on them for being non muslims?

    Yes he did. He also advocated the opposite at times, which is why it’s really difficult to pin down one singular version of Islam for the entire world to judge fairly. It is a complex, perplexing religion (like all mythological persuasions can be). Perhaps one of the greatest areas of mystery in Islam is in its treatment of women. On one hand, Islam was among the world’s most progressive religions in allowing women certain rights at the time that they did not have through tribal customs and so forth. On the other hand, some tribes and groups saw things differently and adopted regressive, abusive policies regarding treatment from religion. All in the name of God.

    The trouble lies not with Islam, Christianity, Judaism, or any religion. Having some sort of Contest of Atrocities, as is popular to do in some circles, is pointless. Instead, we need to be very concerned with those individuals who claim to know there is a God and who claim to speak for their deity.

    Also, “jihad” (for the 1000000000th time) is not terrorism. It is essentially defined as a personal struggle. I can, were I Muslim, have a jihad involving not wearing a hat indoors. Simple as that. It is NOT synonymous with terrorism unless a Muslim decides his or her jihad involves violence and terror.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Also, the book reviewed in this article is a piece of trash. It is a ridiculous Us Vs. Them narrative based on suppositions and unchecked assertions designed to provoke fear and paranoia. No religion can claim to be a religion of peace, but practitioners of said religions can sure as hell be peaceful.

    We need to stop the divide and conquer attitude so thoughtlessly provoked by the ignorant and start learning to understand and coexist with one another. Peace is possible as long as understanding and compassion are finally allowed a seat at the table.

  • someone

    @Jordan Richardson
    “The construct of the book is such that an awful lot is lost in translation, for lack of a better phrase, and non-Arabic-speaking scholars can only go so far as to establish context, original meaning, and so forth.”
    If u’re trying to say that the arabic cannot be translated to other languages while retaining it’s meaning then it also means that Allah has failed to safeguard the Koran as he promised in it(It’s actually strange that He promises to safeguard something inside the thing He wants to safeguard).

    “It is a complex, perplexing religion (like all mythological persuasions can be).”
    Agreed. On one hand the Prophet tells others to marry only 4 women. On the other he himself marries 13 including an 8 year old and a wife of his own son in law.

    “The trouble lies not with Islam, Christianity, Judaism, or any religion.”
    True, it only lies with Islam

    “”jihad” (for the 1000000000th time) is not terrorism”
    In the Battle of Badr, Uhad etc etc. Muhammad and his followers were not slitting throats and stuff for the spoils of war. No, they were preventing themselves from not ‘not slitting them’. The Koran says: “Fight in the name of Allah against those who fight you”. Quite obvious for me(no hats involved).

    “It is a ridiculous Us Vs. Them narrative…”
    IMO, It contains more facts than suppositions and unchecked assertions combined and what it provokes is expected considering what one beleives in.

    “No religion can claim to be a religion of peace”
    Except for religions like Chistianity, Buddism, Hinduism, etc etc which teach peace instead of fighting.

    “stop the divide and conquer attitude…coexist with one another.”
    Yes, coexists in a world where one kind slits throats and the other watches silently.

  • Jordan Richardson

    True, it only lies with Islam

    Really? Islam is the world’s only violent religion? I hate to discard the rest of your argument based on this one incredibly illogical point, but I’m going to have to.

    Except for religions like Chistianity, Buddism, Hinduism, etc etc which teach peace instead of fighting.

    Yeah, Christianity with all of its bloody rapture talk and Jesus returning to smite the heathen enemy at the End of Time is certainly VERY peaceful. And really? Hinduism is peaceful? What part of the caste system is peaceful? Buddhism comes close, but even it is not without conflict.

    Face it, religions were created by human beings and human beings are steeped in conflict. Hence it follows naturally that religions are also steeped in conflict.

    Yes, coexists in a world where one kind slits throats and the other watches silently.

    I like solutions, personally, and I choose to employ active peacefulness in my life. It’s a bit of an uphill climb, but I refuse to engage in conflict with one particular people group or religious group simply based on what some of them believe. All have capacity for violence and all have the capacity for peace.

    I guess this begs a pretty obvious question, though. What are your suggestions/solutions for encouraging peacefulness and compassion with Islam?

  • Jordan Richardson

    what it provokes is expected considering what one beleives in

    I’m not really sure what this means. What this book provokes is “expected” considering what one believes in? How so? Can you elaborate?

  • Azmat Mall

    I love to read what Robert Spencer writes about Islam. It is very informative and an eye opening material. It sheds a great deal of light on the hypocrisy of Islam. What bothers me a little is when a writer like Spencer brings out dislike for the left. He too sounds very hypocritical(holier than thou attitude) like Rush, Sean, Ann, Pat, and rest of the Fox family. Lose it Mr. Spencer you are much bigger than that.
    Islam is full of conflicting and disturbing messages that make one to question whether it’s a religion or cult. Then again no questions of criticism are allowed in Islam. Its either believe or beheaded. So called classic Arabic of Quran/Hadith is written in poor style. Evidence of Islamic brand of Evangelism by sword (doctrine of surrender & submission) is seen throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe.
    Mohamad’s strange syncretism of Islam goes something like this:
    Mentioned Allah (moon god) but left out God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
    Mentioned Moses but left out the Law of Moses (Ten Commandments and Tanakh).
    Mentioned Jesus but left out Gospel of peace & salvation, love & hope.
    Mentioned Jihad but left out mercy & compassion.
    Mentioned heaven of earthly pleasures but left out heaven of God’s eternal glory
    Mentioned hatred of Jews & Christians (people of the book) but left out forgiveness & tolerance. There is no concept of pluralism found in Islam