Reuel Gerecht and Jeffrey Goldberg vs. Pamela Geller

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book, Arab Winter Comes to America: The Truth About the War We're In, is now available.

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What’s more, even the best, most literal translation of the Qur’an does not give the full flavor of some phrases and passages, since the general English reader will not be aware of their precise theological significance in Islam. For example, the phrase “strive in the path of Allah,” which appears in numerous places and various permutations in the Qur’an, refers in Islamic theology specifically to fighting hot war, with weapons, not to metaphorical verbal conflict or some other kind of conflict. But unless one is reading along with commentaries, this phrase will look more like a pious exhortation to be more religious than a call to take up arms.

Now what did Pamela Geller say? “Now I also believe that a true translation, an accurate translation of the Koran, is really not available in English, according to many of the Islamic scholars that I’ve spoken to.” That is a general statement made in conversation and not in a scholarly setting with any intention of forensic precision; nonetheless, it is generally true: ask any honest native Arabic speaker and they’ll tell you that Qur’an translations in English in the main do not convey the full martial flavor of the original, and the principal translations have the defects noted above. As she was speaking in context about what Western non-Muslims as well as Western Muslims generally understand about Islam, the existence of largely accurate translations like those of Arberry, Bell, and Dawood does not render her statement false: she was speaking about popular understanding, not about what is known among academics.

After haughtily admonishing Geller to read more and blog less, Gerecht continues the amicus curiae brief he has given to Goldberg by turning to her comments about what Muslims pray about in their five times a day observances. In that connection, Gerecht says: “I certainly have no perfect way of knowing what Muslims think when they pray, but I really do think they know what they’re doing.”

That is a very large and vague assertion. Gerecht is certainly aware that most Muslims are not Arabs, and yet no matter where they are and what language they speak, they must pray in Arabic; huge numbers recite syllables by rote without having any precise idea of what they’re saying. They may “know what they’re doing,” in terms of engaging in Islamic prayer in a general sense, but is Gerecht saying that they know all the details of what they’re saying, along with the theological and political implications? I have spoken to many non-Arab Muslims who have confirmed that a large number do not, and this has been widely reported, particularly in connection with the madrassas in Pakistan. Is Reuel Gerecht really interested in denying it?

He writes, “If westernized Muslims are facing the Almighty, they know what’s in their hearts. Devout Muslims need not hate Jews and Christians to worship the Creator.” But Pamela Geller didn’t say that they did. She merely said that they probably didn’t know that “when they pray five times a day that they’re cursing Christians and Jews five times a day.” Gerecht then asserts that just as Christian doctrine doesn’t require Christians to slaughter Jews (although he seems to harbor an immense distaste for Christianity, far exceeding any revulsion he may feel toward Islamic jihadists and supremacists), so also Islamic doctrine doesn’t require Muslims to slaughter Jews. This is, again, a red herring, since Pamela Geller didn’t say that it did, but Gerecht seems to have forgotten this key hadith, in which Muhammad says that the wholesale slaughter of Jews by Muslims will usher in the end times:

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.

“In my experience,” Gerecht says, “most Muslims do not think about Jews and Christians at all when they pray.” But Geller wasn’t commenting on what Muslims think about; she was talking about what they probably don’t know—that their prayers involve curses of Jews and Christians. And indeed, when praying the requisite five prayers a day, an observant Muslim will recite the Fatihah, the first surah of the Qur’an and the most common prayer in Islam, seventeen times. The final two verses of the Fatihah ask Allah: “Show us the straight path, the path of those whom Thou hast favoured; not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.” The traditional Islamic understanding of this is that the path of those who have earned Allah’s anger are the Jews, and those who have gone astray are the Christians.

This is not my interpretation; it comes from the classic Islamic commentaries on the Qur’an. The renowned Qur’anic commentator Ibn Kathir explains that “the two paths He described here are both misguided,” and that those “two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them. The path of the believers is knowledge of the truth and abiding by it. In comparison, the Jews abandoned practicing the religion, while the Christians lost the true knowledge. This is why ‘anger’ descended upon the Jews, while being described as ‘led astray’ is more appropriate of the Christians.”

The Hadith also contains material linking Jews to Allah’s anger and Christians to his curse, resulting from their straying from the true path. (The Jews are accursed also, according to Qur’an 2:89, and both are accursed according to 9:30).

So once again, what did Pamela Geller say? “And I don’t think that many westernized Muslims know when they pray five times a day that they’re cursing Christians and Jews five times a day. I don’t think they know that.” There is a solid foundation for that idea in the content of Islamic prayer and the ways those prayers have been understood by mainstream Islamic theologians.

Reuel Gerecht may be a friend of Jeffrey Goldberg, but he shouldn’t have rented out his erudition to Goldberg to prosecute a vendetta against Pamela Geller for leading an opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque that is shared by seventy percent of all Americans. Gerecht is right in saying in his note to Goldberg that people should be treated in their full complexity, not as walking abstractions. He has in mind residents of the Islamic world, but such charity begins at home.

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  • Alexander Gofen

    Thanks Robert Spencer for the in-depth clarifications of the textual obscurities in Islamic prayers. Yet it is material things that are at issue. Just some 100 years ago, who in the West cared what was in those Islamic prayers, in koran and hadiths?!

    What has changed now is that we empowered Islam with tens of trillions of oil money (we never ought to), and millions of Moslems are already here (they never ought to). And while here, Moslems spread Islamic cancer into all organs of the societal body. So we are about to have not one, but two 9/11 victory mosques (the so called "national park monument" at the Flight 93 crash site):

    Wake up America! Islam does not belong here. If we do not rid of Islam, it will rid of us.

    • ajnn

      "we empowered Islam with tens of trillions of oil money (we never ought to)"

      You may be correct, but was it avoidable? We need the oil and the oil is the source of their 'petrodollars'.

      The question is what shall we do now ? Carpool, walk, etc have limited efficacy in reducing the transformation of dollars into petrodollars. Oil is used in industry and in heating oil. It has so many applications they cannot be listed.

      There are alternatives to oil in most applications, but they are more expensive and many are not technologically mature.

      A rock and a hard place. Not necessarily anyones fault, just science / engineering and an accident of geography.

      • akbass

        "….was it (empowering Islam with tens of trillions of oil money) avoidable?"

        YES!!!! The U.S. could have been completely energy independent DECADES ago……nuclear……our own untapped oil and gas reserves (which are massive)….etc., etc. It has nothing whatsoever to do with any "accident of geography," but the politics of environmentalism and money.

      • Alexander Gofen

        ajnn is mostly correct writing:

        "… just science / engineering and an accident of geography"

        about the "unearned" Islamic petrodollars (as D. Hanson put it). There will be no easy way around within science and technology soon.

        Yet it was a fault of our political thinking stuck into a false belief as though there is no alternative to peaceful trade: even when the object of trade is a strategic resource such as oil, and when this trade empowers the enemies. In fact a war would be the right answer (if it were really for oil) – as I wrote about it in "Imminent").

        Even greater fault was that the West and our nation let millions of Moslems in. Unlike the oil necessary for the modern technology, Moslems in the West are necessary for nothing – yet they are here. And that was even a greater mistake: far beyond "an accident of geography".

        What shall we do now? At least to acknowledge what was wrong, and begin to do it right.

        • ajnn

          Immigration is an entirely different issue.

          We have stopped noticing that cultures are different (The 'multiculturalists' are a bunch of hypocrites) and that immigration is a privilege and not a right. The purpose should be to further our values, apply our values, and benefit our nation.

          There is no 'right' to emigrate to the United States for anyone, certainly not people who don't want to be 'Americans'.

          • Alexander Gofen

            You are absolutely correct!

            10. Every nation receiving immigrants must do that according to its national interests in order to assert the national identity rather than dissolve it. Therefore we must restore the previously existing immigration laws requiring that the applicants must match the cultural, religious, and racial profile proper to our country as before the 60s….

          • j.n.m

            But what would should be done at this point as there are Isalmic citizens of our country? Is our countries views and laws as they stand now doomed because of our stress of tolerance (whatever that means)?

          • Alexander Gofen

            …"our countries views and laws as they stand now" seem to be doomed, alas. What we can do is to begin with what is possible now: burn korans, educate people to disgust Islam and to recognize the superiority of our own Judeo-Christian values, to restore the real meaning of the Constitution and the law, to ACT for America, and so on.

          • barny

            "Judeo-Christian "

            That's a well known myth.

            It only suits you to equate the two when you reconcile the differences, but Christianity has hated Jews for over 2000 years. Jews have been persecuted by Christians; the last time (over 50 years ago – 6million were gassed). Now you equate the two as friends?

            The enemy of mine enemy is my friend?

            You slimey , ***hole – try to say that to a family of jews who lost their grandparents to the Nazi Holocaust (sponsored by the Vatican).

          • Alexander Gofen

            My comment did not equate Judaism and Christianity, nor is it about reconciling their differences. It is about alliance of the two vis-a-vis the greatest evil ever – Islam.

            It is true, that there was near 1800 years of Christian hostility against Judaism. And it is true, that Christian Zionism emerged only 200 years ago. Yet the civilization as we know it is a Judeo-Christian achievement: not of anybody else. And America is an exclusively Judeo-Christian nation from its very inception. If you cannot stand it, nowadays you can make another choice.

            You are wrong as though Vatican sponsored Holocaust. Educate yourself.

            Indeed, not all Christians support Israel (yet also not all "Jews" support Israel – may they be cursed!) Yet there exist over 50 millions of Christian Zionist in America (CUFI to name the first). Have you ever heard about any movement of "Moslem Zionists"?! Yet some treasonous "Rabbis" are busy "building interfaith bridges" with Islam:

    • barny
    • barny

      Jews cause trouble, they have done for over 3000 years. They lived in exile, as refugees, as a diaspora, an exodus, In the Wilderness, immigrants, wandering jew, cursed-gypsy, homeless, landless – why?

      Why have they not seen PEACE, for over 3000 years? why?
      Why are they hated by Christianity? the mass genocides? ethnic cleansing? persecutions? mass conversions/murders? hate campaigns? Nazism?
      Jews are hated … now they are trying to get the Goy to fight each other – they are, once again, exposing their cunning, their haughtiness, their arrogance, their slimey nature, their top down approach to the Goy (the FILTHY GENTILE)…it will soon backfire (again!) as it always did. These people seem to be intelligent, clever and shrewd, but there is something seriously lacking in their intellect… something that they can never quite understand. Something the EUROPEANS are weary of… something that is about to raise its face again.

      Beat the drums of hate as hard & as loud as you can…

    • barny

      "Satan, being thus confined to a vagabond, wandering, unsettled condition, is without any certain abode; for though he has, in consequence of his angelic nature, a kind of empire in the liquid waste or air, yet this is certainly part of his punishment, that he is … without any fixed place, or space, allowed him to rest the sole of his foot upon."

      Daniel Defoe, The History of the Devil

      • Alexander Gofen

        The history of persecution of Jews by Christians indeed was long and ugly. Yet that had happened not due to instructions found in the Bible and Gospel, but against them. The consistent Christianity ought to be Zionist from the very beginning, while Islam is anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic in its entirety, which is rooted since the conflict of the children of Abraham (listen "The Clash of Destiny" by Rabbi Daniel Lapin). And read "Standing with Israel" by David Brog.

  • plymouthedl

    The quran being translated– It works quite fine when it is burning.!!!!!

    • John Beatty

      The sad part is you're not even interested in what your opponents in this ansynchronous conflict really believe, and thus have no idea what issues may be involved.

      • ajnn

        Mr. John Beatty – please, Plymouthed is just being a bit raucous.

        Humor is a tough mediam of expression. I score on about one-in-five jokes. That is not really so bad.

        So Plymouthed shot a blank. No need to see it as a statement of philosophy !!

    • barny

      like the Nazis did with the Jewish texts?


  • Juliana Geran Pilon

    It is not clear to me in what ways Muslims curse Christians and Jews whenever they pray. Any idea what Ms. Geller might have meant? Can she possibly mean to say that every prayer necessarily invokes the entire Quran (parts of which are certainly belligerent against those "brothers" of the Book)? Please advise.

  • Civilus Defendus

    Surah Fatihah:
    Set us firm on the straight path. The path of those you have blessed, not of those who have earned your wrath (11-Jews), nor of those who have gone astray (12-Christians)

    11. This refers to people who rejected divine guidance because of arrogance and haughtiness or if they accepted, did so without the willingness of the heart. They not only rejected the Messengers of God through whom the Almighty wanted to reform them but sometimes went as far as to torture and even kill them. Consequently, they became worthy of the wrath of God in retribution of their sins. This is in fact a reference to the Jews of the Pre-Islamic times. In the succeeding surah, it is they who are presented with a charge sheet of their crimes, in a manner that they cannot deny it.

    12. This refers to people who distorted the face of religion through their innovations and deviations such that they, at the advent of the last Prophet (sws), were themselves unable to recognize it. This is a reference to the followers of Jesus (sws). Surah Al Imran the surah which succeeds Surah Baqarah presents a charge sheet of their crimes in a manner that they are left with no excuse to deny it.

  • realhumanrights

    Because of political failures elsewhere, some in the right have chosen to try to convert those who objected to the security and human rights issues of violent jihad and religious extremist views into an ant-Islam campaign. At one point, the "anti-jihad" community provided tips to the police about those Islamic extremists that made threats. Now, members of the "anti-Islam" extremist campaigns are physically attacking police officers with bricks, smashing businesses in UK, some are involved in arson and vandalism in the US, and too many members of the "anti-Islam" extremist campaign see nothing wrong with violence for their views.

    On the comments on this web page, I have seen people call for shooting Muslim imams, those praising use of bricks against police. On Pamela Gellers' SIOA Facebook site there is an SIOA supporter that writes "the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim." And we see this kind of thing routinely now in the public, on the Internet, we have radio broadcasters calling for killing Muslims, etc.

    Yet unbelievably the absurd point of this article is to debate whether Muslims curse Christians and Jews or not, with posters that regularly look the other way, when right before their eyes there are non-Muslims that not only curse Muslims, but also seek to deny their human rights, and even promote violence, including those that do commit violence.

    Now of course there is no discussion by Mr. Spencer as to why SIOA keeps promoting the EDL and even inviting EDL to its protests, when EDL members do a lot more than "curse" Muslims, but openly engage in violence against them, the police, and other members of British society.

    Ultimately, the "anti-Islam" extremists are becoming what they claim they hate.

    • ajnn

      "members of the "anti-Islam" extremist campaigns are physically attacking police officers with bricks, smashing businesses in UK, some are involved in arson and vandalism in the US"

      Not in the United States. About Britain, I do not believe you.

    • barny

      Geller and Spencer are desperate…they have to stoop so low to gain support from SERBIAN WAR CRIMINALS and BRITISH FOOTBALL HOOLIGANS, NEO-FASCISTS/NAZIS and CRIMINALS/VANDALS/ARSONISTS.

      Spencer is NOT a scholar of Islam, he has no credentials, he doesn't even know the Arabic language(How many Classics experts/scholars do you know noted for their lack of knowledge of Latin???)

      Spencer has never published any peer-reviewed academic papers. He has no authority on Hadith or the secience of Fiqh…Nothing!!!

      He is just a quack doctor. His credentials suit just what he is… a hate monger. The academic world has nothing to do with him…just do a quick check on GOOGLE and see. The man doesn't hold any Ph.D on the subject of Islam, Muslims, Islamic history, or Islamic Studies…nothing of the sort.

  • Martel Sobieskey

    Pamela Geller is an American hero who tells the truth about Islam. Those people attacking her are intellectually corrupt. My article below is in support of her position by also telling the truth about Islam:

    • barny

      A hero for Jews only.

      Americans have no time to fight wars for the Jew. We are NOT your GOY!

      Geller is not a patriot of AMERICA – GEELR is a patriot of ISRAEL. period!

  • vladdyjen

    Are those attacking Pamela Geller really against her….or are they really against facing the truth about what islam is/isn't?

  • stick447

    Islam purposely offends Christianity in many ways. The writing on the Dome of The Rock says Allah has no Son, a purposeful insult to Christians. Tell me what Church you have ever walked into and read an insult of Islam in.
    P.S. Since Allah is not the God of the Bible but the moon god of ancient arabia I'm not offended in the least.

    • barny

      have you read the Talmud??? Do you know what it says about Christ? What do moslems say about Christ and his mother? What do Jews say?

      Hey! A revelation! …. Congrats!!! You support the ANTICHRIST! and there's many of you (Goy – GENTILE & GOLUM!) you are one of the cursed, yet do not know it! Your heart is sealed… carry on! You walk with the cursed one. One who was expelled, persecuted for over 3000 years, the one who has no home, nor land, the one who wanders the earth, the immigrant, the refugee…

      The mischeivous one! The trouble causer, the one that is haughty and arrogant, the one that deludes you… the one that laughs at you – nay! spits on you for being a follower of CHRIST.

  • barny

    "Satan, being thus confined to a vagabond, wandering, unsettled condition, is without any certain abode; for though he has, in consequence of his angelic nature, a kind of empire in the liquid waste or air, yet this is certainly part of his punishment, that he is . . . without any fixed place, or space, allowed him to rest the sole of his foot upon. "

    Daniel Defoe, The History of the Devil

  • barny

    You are a patriot of ISRAEL not AMERICA… we are about to realize what it is to align ourselves with the ANTICHRIST, the one who has been expelled from every EUROPEAN country he's ever lived in. Why??? Why have they been persecuted for over 3000 years???

    Why are they not seeing peace to this day? Why are they wandering the earth causing MISCHIEF AND TROUBLE – why???

    "Satan, being thus confined to a vagabond, wandering, unsettled condition, is without any certain abode; for though he has, in consequence of his angelic nature, a kind of empire in the liquid waste or air, yet this is certainly part of his punishment, that he is . . . without any fixed place, or space, allowed him to rest the sole of his foot upon."

    Daniel Defoe, The History of the Devil

  • stick447

    What the Talmud says about Christ or Satan is not the same as what the Tanach says about the Son of God, Psalm 2:12 says " Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish [from] the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed [are] all they that put their trust in him."
    Proverbs 30:4 also says, "4 Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what [is] his name, and what [is] his son's name, if thou canst tell?"
    The Tanach is the written word of God, the Talmud is the word of man. As for me and my household, like Joshua, we will follow God and His Son Jesus. I strongly advise the same for all.