Shillman Fellow Raymond Ibrahim answers several questions concerning the publication of his new book, Defenders of the West. (This Q&A originally appeared as part of the publisher’s media kit, under the title, “A Conversation with Raymond Ibrahim.”)
What inspired you to write Defenders of the West?
Ibrahim: There seems to be a massive deficit in heroism nowadays, and I wanted to show that it wasn’t always like this, that Western people did not always take it for granted that their leaders (meaning “politicians”) would always be cynical, politically-correct, self-serving, and cowardly—far from it. So I looked around in history for those leaders who embodied the opposite traits—sincerity, altruism, self-sacrifice, patriotism, and above all, death-defying courage—especially against the West’s historic enemy, and my specialty, Islam.
Moreover, because my last book, Sword and Scimitar, received such a positive response, I wanted to offer something of a follow-up. Whereas that book dealt with eight decisive battles, this book deals with what I term eight decisive men.
What do you hope is the biggest takeaway from the book?
Ibrahim: Ultimately, I think the book offers very exciting—though currently little known—biographies of eight singular warriors. As such, it should make for an enthralling read. At the same time, it documents some interesting patterns that are otherwise unknown or ignored—that, for example, Muslims invaded various parts of Europe, massacred and enslaved millions over the centuries, and always on the same jihadist logic that Islam’s apologists today insist is “un-Islamic.” In other words, the book was designed to be both intrinsically entertaining and instrumentally informative: by reading about the dramatic lives and struggles of these iconic fighters, and thereby gaining a much better understanding of the past with Islam, readers will also gain a much better understanding of their present.
Each chapter is based around a certain character from the time. Which one interests you or resonates with you the most?
Ibrahim: This is difficult to answer; besides, I wouldn’t want to influence anyone with my own personal inclinations. Ultimately, the stories of all eight men are remarkable and inspiring, and it seems that each character has something different to offer, resonating differently with different readers. For example, I’ve shared the book with several colleagues and each of them responded with a different favorite character.
Why is it important to tell a modern audience about the Crusades?
Ibrahim: Because, on the one hand, the Crusades are very pivotal to understanding the West’s history vis-à-vis Islam, and on the other hand, they are so universally misunderstood and maligned. Far from being an unimportant or “academic” matter, such a widespread misunderstanding of the Crusades and their significance has had and continues to have a profoundly negative impact on how Westerners understand—that is, misunderstand—current events revolving around Islam and the West.
What is one thing readers would be surprised to learn about you?
Ibrahim: Despite my open criticism of Islam, far from “disliking” Muslims—and not least due to my own Middle Eastern background and heritage—I’m actually sympathetic to them as a people.