In "Onward Muslim Soldiers," the author of "Islam Unveiled" reveals why the threat of violent jihad is growing daily, despite America's recent victory in Iraq. Spencer uncovers the cause of global violence as he goes straight to Muslim sources.
Moreover, Spencer's analyses are devoid of politically correct, ahistorical dithering. This is apparent from the opening chapter (in the first of the books three main sections), and the illustrative example of the infamous grenade and small arms attack by American sergeant Hasan Akbar, an African-American convert to Islam, which killed two of his senior officers and wounded 15 others, in northern Kuwait on March 22, 2003. After reviewing statements by designated spokespersons (an Army chaplain and a Pentagon official) dismissing (reflexively) Islamic ideology as a potential motivating factor, and the predictable defense counsel and family attempts to portray religious and/or racial discrimination against Akbar as precipitating the arrest, Spencer cites sacred texts from the Qur'an and hadith (putative deeds and utterances of Muhammad as recorded by his pious followers) prohibiting Muslims from fighting their co-religionists.
The author's provocative analysis is supported by a succinct introduction to the unique Islamic institution of jihad (including jihad war), its central obligation to pious Muslims, and how jihad is linked inextricably to the corollary institution of "dhimmitude." He then makes further disquieting observations germane to contemporary jihad "campaigns" and the basic human rights of all non-Muslims living in societies whose legal codes are inspired either in full or part by the Shari'a (Islamic Holy Law). Subsequently, Spencer returns to the Akbar case, specifically, to review evidence of the funding and related ideological orientation of the mosque attended by Sergeant Akbar.
Jihad was pursued century after century, because jihad, which means "to strive in the path of Allah," embodied an ideology and a jurisdiction. Both were formally conceived by Muslim jurisconsults and theologians from the 8th and 9th centuries onward, based on their interpretation of Qur'an verses and long chapters in the hadith. As Spenser notes, appropriately, the consensus on the nature of jihad from all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (i.e., Maliki, Hanbali, Hanafi, and Shafi'i) is clear.
Spencer then reviews the historical implications of the Qur'an's injunction in verse 9:29:
"Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of The Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, feel themselves subdued."
For example, al-Mawardi (d. 1058), a seminal Shafi'ite jurist during the Abbasid-Baghdadian Caliphate, elucidated the regulations pertaining to the lands and infidel (i.e., non-Muslim) populations subjugated by jihad. The vanquished non-Muslims were compelled to adhere to this pact ("dhimma"), which acknowledged their submission, or face the threat of having the jihad against them resumed. If the payment ceases, then the jihad resumes. This is the origin of the system of dhimmitude- a vast, uniquely Islamic institution of religious apartheid, implemented for over a millennium across three continents- Asia, Africa, and Europe- from the Indian subcontinent to Portugal, north through the Balkans, and south to The Sudan. The native infidel populations had to recognize Islamic ownership of their land, submit to Islamic law, and accept payment of the poll tax (jizya).
Spencer provides this reasoned, sobering assessment of the modern predicament created by the living institutions of jihad and dhimmitude, which is consistently obfuscated by his timid or uninformed peers in modern Western intellectual circles:
"...the simple fact that jihad remains a vital part of Islamic theology is insufficiently appreciated in the West. In stark contrast to apologies for the Crusades issued by the Pope and various Protestant groups, no major Muslim group has ever repudiated the doctrines of jihad. The ideology of jihad, with all its assumptions about unbelievers' lack of human rights and dignity, is available today as a justification for anyone with the will and the means to bring it to life...
The author segues from the Akbar case to a host of other chilling examples which illustrate the pervasive influence of jihad and dhimmitude in both the U.S. and European Muslim communities- primarily mosques expounding these institutions, but also intermediate school textbooks, and college student organizations (for e.g., chapters of the Muslim Student Association).
Spencer's carefully referenced, but concise, thoughtful discussions address a truly impressive array of issues critical to an informed understanding of international jihad conflicts and terrorism. Most importantly, he describes how seminal 20th century Muslim ideologues- the Shi'ite Ayatollah Khomeini, and four Sunnis - Hasan al Banna, Sayyid Qutb, Sayyid Abul A'la Maududi, and Abdullah Azzam - revitalized and implemented the classical Islamic institutions of jihad and dhimmitude. Since the 1930s, their teachings and actions have had a profound impact on every major jihad campaign across the globe (including, but not limited to Israel, India, Bangladesh, Iran, Sudan, Indonesia, former Yugoslavia, and Algeria). Osama bin Laden, who orchestrated the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, was influenced deeply and directly by Abdullah Azzam, with whom he studied and fought alongside, in Afghanistan.
Sadly, as Robert Spencer demonstrates, dhimmitude is still ignored or obfuscated, and most Muslim (and many Western) intellectuals continue to justify the jihad concept as an inoffensive spiritual engagement with one's own evil instincts, or purely "defensive" combat for "justice." Let us hope the author's elegant, uncompromising analyses prompt intellectual and media elites in general, and the Muslim intelligentsia and media, in particular, to begin the long overdue process of a (self-) critical reflection on the uniquely Islamic institutions of jihad and dhimmitude. Only then can meaningful interfaith dialogue begin to facilitate sincere efforts at reconciliation between Muslim and non-Muslim societies and peoples.
Consider the doctrine of jihad. Just what does it mean and involve? Because there is no ultimate central authority in Islam, argues Spencer, disagreement exists as to interpreting the Koran, the weight of tradition (Hadith), and the example of Muhammad. But the Koran (Sura 9:29), Islamic history and jurisprudence all hold that there are three choices for the non-Muslim in a Muslim land: conversion to Islam, dhimmitude, or death. "The goal of jihad is thus the incorporation of non-Muslims into Muslim society, either by conversion or submission."
Koranic injunctions to fight are numerous, as they are in the various collections of Hadith. And Muhammad himself set the example of violent conquest. The idea of complete submission to Islam, even to the point of death, argues Spencer, "remains a vital part of Islamic theology". Thus jihad is very much concerned with the concept of holy war, and even terrorism.
Hand in hand with jihad is the notion of dhimmitude. Non-Muslims in Muslim countries are considered dhimmis, or protected peoples. Such protection however often results in second-class citizenship (and worse) for the minority groups. Various social, political and religious restrictions, along with the mandatory payment of a poll-tax (jizya) effectively spells the gradual liquidation of the minority groups.
Apologists for Islam often claim that these practices may have been true in the past, but are no longer so prevalent. But Spencer amply documents how both jihad and dhimmitude are alive and well in most Muslim nations today.
September 11 was, to a great degree, a logical outcome of the concept of jihad. Some however argue that as the ultimate suicide bombing, Sept. 11 cannot be reconciled with Islam, since suicide is sinful in Islam. But many Muslims defend suicide bombing, arguing that it is not really suicide but martyrdom for Allah, something much praised in the Koran. They insist that the bombers simply use their bodies to kill others, not themselves. And those who are killed while fighting for Allah are promised a one-way ticket to Paradise. Interestingly, in Islam, no other action guarantees one's eternal destiny in Paradise.
A good part of this book documents how radical Islam is at war against not only the West, but moderate Muslims as well. He offers detailed, referenced accounts of how militant Muslims are at work in the West, and how many Western sympathisers have been duped by their words of peace and tolerance. Yes, the Koran does speak of these ideas, but it also contains many verses devoted to violent intolerance.
He documents how Western leftists have been silent on Muslim atrocities, presumably because only America is capable of evil. He details how leftist apologists for radical Islam in the West have distorted the evidence and closed their ears to the facts of history. This attempt to blame America first and justify Muslim jihad are having serious repercussions in the West, says Spencer.
And the truth is, he argues, for the radical Muslim, Islam is at war with the world, and until all the earth is brought under Dar al-Islam (the house, or rule, of Islam), terror, fighting and suicide bombings will continue. That is why the West needs to be ever vigilant, and needs to continue to encourage moderate Islam to gets its own house in order, and disassociate itself entirely from the extremist elements.
While we must do all we can to encourage Muslim moderation, we dare not ignore Muslim extremism. This books helps us to do both, and deserves a wide reading.
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