Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch, a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is the author of nine books on Islam and Jihad, a weekly columnist for Human Events and Frontpagemag.com, and has led numerous seminars for the U.S. military and intelligence communities. He is the author of the new book, The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran.
FP: Robert Spencer, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Spencer: Thanks, Jamie. It is always an honor to chat with a perceptive and honest thinker like you.
FP: Well thank you.
So how is this new book different from your previous ones?
Spencer: While in my other books I’ve quoted from the Koran in explaining various aspects of the jihad doctrine and Islamic supremacism, this book is unique among my books in being an in-depth examination of the Koran itself. In this book, and in none of my other books, I discuss how the Koran was compiled; alternate versions of the Koran; alleged miracles of the Koran; how the Koran adapts and alters Biblical stories such as those of Adam, Noah, Moses, Solomon, Mary and Jesus; the Koranic appropriation of Jewish, Christian and even pagan figures; the foundations of Islamic mysticism in the Koran; the ways in which seemingly innocuous passages of the Koran actually convey meanings quite different from what may appear to non-Muslim Westerners; how the Koran's stories of the Biblical prophets are all told in a way meant to support Muhammad's prophetic claim; why Muslims regard the Jews as their worst enemies; how and why the New Testament accounts of Christ are altered in the Koran; the Koran's moral code and what it is conspicuously lacking; and much more.
FP: How come there is so much ignorance about the Koran, not only among non-Muslims but also Muslims themselves?
Spencer: Large numbers of Muslims have no firm idea of what is really in the Koran. This is in large part because, as central as it is to Islamic faith and culture, the Koran is an Arabic book: its Arabic character is part of its essence. This notion comes from the book itself: “We have revealed the Koran in the Arabic tongue so that you may grow in understanding” (12:1). The Koran describes itself repeatedly as essentially and inherently an “Arabic Koran” (12:2; 20:113; 39:28; 41:3; 41:44; 42:7; and 43:3).
Indeed, with an eye apparently only on the local situation in Muhammad’s time and not on the long-term picture, Allah says that it would not have made any sense to send down the Koran to Muhammad in any language other than Arabic, and to have done so would have incited the scorn of Infidels: “Had We sent this as a Qur’an (in the language) other than Arabic, they would have said: ‘Why are not its verses explained in detail? What! (a Book) not in Arabic and (a Messenger) an Arab?’” (41:44).
All Muslims, whether or not they speak Arabic (and most Muslims today are not Arabs), are obligated to recite the Koran in Arabic. This means most Muslims worldwide recite their prayers from rote memory. Translations of the Koran occupy a curious position in the Islamic world. Muslims do not consider any translation of the Koran to be the Koran at all; it is only Allah’s word when it is transmitted in Arabic. In Arabic, says English Muslim convert Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, the Koran is an “inimitable symphony, the very sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy.” But that quality allegedly doesn’t carry over to other languages – something essential is lost in translation.
Still, translations of the Koran are tolerated for the sake of spreading Islam to non-Arabic speakers. Muslim groups worldwide work energetically to convert non-Muslims, offering Islamic materials such as translated Korans that are produced by Muslims themselves, despite the alleged impossibility of understanding the Koran except in Arabic. And yet Muslim scholars and apologists often dodge tough questions about the allegedly peaceful nature of Islam by dismissing all translations of the Koran and claiming that the book can only be truly understood in Arabic. Why they bother translating it and distributing these translations among non-Muslims remains unexplained.
The religious superiority of Arabic in Islam has led to an Arabic cultural hegemony in the non-Arabic Muslim world. Great non-Arab civilizations in lands that are now Muslim — most notably Iran — are not valued as part of the Muslim heritage, but are generally dismissed as products of the worthless time of jahiliyya, the “pre-Islamic period of ignorance.” This view has led to a surprising lack of knowledge on the part of even faithful and devoted Muslims as to the precise contents of the Koran. Many recite it syllabically without any deep understanding of the meaning of the words they are pronouncing. A Pakistani Muslim once said to me, in all seriousness, “I am very proud of my religion, and have memorized almost all of the Koran. And one day I plan to get one of those translations and find out what it means.”
The implications of this for contemporary debates about Islamic terrorism are profound. The point here is not that peaceful Muslims misunderstand their own religion and would become radicalized if they knew it better. But when the Koran is not immediately understood – and its seventh-century Arabic can be difficult even for native Arabic speakers – those who believe in it understand it by means of how it is preached and presented in the local mosque. If the imams there do not preach hatred of Infidels and the necessity to fight and subjugate them, then these probably won’t be live ideas in the minds of the devout – and such has long been the case in many areas of the world.
At the same time, however, the Koran says what it says, and so jihadist movements do point to chapter and verse to attempt to recruit peaceful Muslims to their cause, and to justify their actions within the Islamic community.
Many non-Muslims, meanwhile, simply assume without examination that the Koran, since it is a religious book, must teach peace, love, brotherhood, and compassion.
FP: What does the Koran think of infidels and what does it teach for Muslims to do to them? Why?
Spencer: In the Koran the Infidels (kuffar) are, simply, those who reject Islam. They are those who do not believe in Muhammad’s message: they “treat it as a falsehood that they must meet Allah” (6:31) and “believe not in the Hereafter” (16:60). They “have bartered guidance for error” (2:16). They even dare to mock Muhammad in his proclamation of Islam. Allah tells his prophet, “When ye proclaim your call to prayer they take it (but) as mockery and sport; that is because they are a people without understanding” (5:58).
The Infidels are those who have made themselves enemies “to Allah, and His angels and His messengers, and Gabriel and Michael.” Allah himself, in turn, “is an enemy to the disbelievers” (2:98). And Satan and his minions are their friends: “Lo! We have made the devils protecting friends for those who believe not” (7:27). They are also, naturally enough, the enemies of the Muslims. Allah gives permission to the believers to shorten their prayers while traveling “for fear the unbelievers may attack you: for the unbelievers are unto you open enemies” (4:101).
Who specifically are Infidels? First there are polytheists (mushrikun), whom Allah particularly disdains for committing the cardinal sin of shirk – associating partners with Allah (2:105, 3:95, and many other passages identify the polytheists as apart from and opposed to Islam's central monotheism).
There are also People of the Book – mostly Jews and Christians. Islamic apologists argue that Islam does not consider them Infidels, since the Koran never specifically identifies them as such. The Koran, they further note, speaks of the “unbelievers among the People of the Book” (59:2), implying that at least some People of the Book were believers, and therefore were not Infidels.
But who comprised this group among the People of the Book that the Koran identifies as believers? They were Jews and Christians who distinguished themselves by “believing” in one thing: that the Biblical prophets, as well as Jesus, preached Islam and anticipated Muhammad’s arrival -- and thus they became Muslims when they heard about Islam. In other words, they were proto-Muslims who recognized that the true teachings of Moses and Jesus were identical to Muhammad's teachings. Any Jews and Christians who rejected this idea and stayed true to their own religions were "unbelievers among the People of the Book" – and therefore Infidels.
The Koran consistently assumes that the Infidels are not people who have come to a good faith decision that Islam is false – neither the Koran nor Islamic tradition allows for the existence of such people. The Koran declares that “the Religion before Allah is Islam,” and that the People of the Book reject it only because of “envy of each other” (3:19). The Jews and Christians, says Maulana Bulandshahri, a twentieth-century Islamic scholar, recognized Muhammad “to be the final Prophet but their obstinate nature prevented them from accepting.”
Thus, in the Koran the unbelievers know that Muhammad is a prophet, and yet, purely out of bad faith, they refuse to become Muslim and follow him. The Koran repeatedly emphasizes the oneness of Allah, and claims that “those to whom We have given the Book” – that is, the Jews and Christians – “know this” – that is, the truth of Muhammad’s message – “as they know their own sons” (6:20). This is because, says Ibn Kathir, “they received good news from the previous Messengers and Prophets about the coming of Muhammad, his attributes, homeland, his migration, and the description of his Ummah.” In other words, their unbelief in Islam is not a sincere rejection based on honest conviction, but sheer perversity: they “lie against their own souls” (6:24). For “in their hearts is a disease; and Allah has increased their disease. And grievous is the penalty they (incur), because they are false (to themselves)” (2:10).
Muslims have the responsibility to fight the Infidels (4:89, 2:191, 9:5) and subjugate the People of the Book under the rule of Islamic law (9:29).
FP: Why do Muslims regard the Jews as their worst enemies? Why such targeting of Jews?
Spencer: The Koran says that the Jews will be the Muslims’ worst enemies, along with the pagans (5:82). This comes from the Koranic presentation of Muhammad as the last and greatest in the line of Biblical prophets, preaching a message identical to theirs. The authentic Torah supposedly commands Jews to follow Muhammad and recognize his prophecy – those who refuse to accept Muhammad as a prophet are, in the Muslim view, rejecting both Moses and the prophecies of the Torah. It is no surprise, then, that in the Koran both David and Jesus curse the disbelieving Jews for their disobedience (5:78).
Yet of course, Torah-observant Jews did not and do not accept Muhammad as a prophet, and this enraged the prophet of Islam during his lifetime. Muhammad initially appealed energetically to the Jews, hoping they would accept his prophetic status. He even had the Muslims imitate the Jews by facing Jerusalem for prayers, and he adopted for the Muslims the Jews’ prohibition of pork. But he was infuriated when the Jews rejected him, and Allah shared his fury in Koranic revelation: they had the Torah, and the Koran confirmed it, and yet they refused to accept the Koran! “And when there came to them a messenger from Allah, confirming what was with them, a party of the people of the Book threw away the Book of Allah behind their backs, as if (it had been something) they did not know!” (2:101).
Another Jewish leader noted that “no covenant was ever made with us about Muhammad.” Allah again responded through his Prophet: “Is it ever so that when they make a covenant a party of them set it aside? The truth is, most of them believe not” (2:100).
FP: Muslims say they believe in Jesus and respect him, but what they say about him is quite different from what the New Testament says about him. How does the Koran alter the New Testament’s accounts about Jesus? Why?
Spencer: Jesus has a prominent place in the Koran. The Islamic holy book refers to Jesus frequently, usually either as “Jesus Christ” or as “Jesus the Son of Mary” (although it uses a form of the name Jesus, Isa, that is not used by Arabic-speaking Christians, and which in reality is closer to “Esau” than to “Jesus.”) The references to the “Son of Mary” reflect the Koran’s acceptance of the Virgin Birth – everyone in antiquity was referred to as the son of his father, not of his mother, unless his father was unknown. And the Koran also affirms the Virgin Birth directly (3:47). Besides “Son of Mary,” Jesus is called Christ (3:45; 4:157; 4:171-2; 5:17; 5:72; 5:75; 9:30-1) and the “Word” of Allah (3:45; 4:171), recalling the Gospel of John, which also identifies Jesus as God’s Word in a striking passage that also says that “the Word was God” (John 1:1, 1:14).
But the Koran and the New Testament also disagree, quite profoundly, about Jesus Christ. Yes, Jesus is the Word of Allah in the Koran, but the Word is not Allah. Allah explains, “The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: ‘Be.’ And he was” (3:59).
Similarly, in the Koran, “Christ” (al-Masih) is essentially a proper name, not a title; Jesus is not the “anointed one” promised to the Jews or to anyone else. Islamic scholars explain that the name is derived from the Arabic verb Massaha, which means to anoint someone with oil for healing. So then is Jesus the Messiah, the anointed one? Not in the Christian sense — they say he bears this name solely because he healed others.
Instead of the Messiah and the Savior of the world, Jesus in the Koran is only one among many prophets -- even if he is favored above his fellow prophets, for Allah has given him “clear (signs), and strengthened him with the holy spirit” (2:253). In fact, another passage says that Jesus is himself a “spirit proceeding from” Allah (4:171).
The spirit of a being is, of course, its very life, but Muslim theologians have never considered the implications of this title, any more than they have considered the implications of calling Jesus Allah’s “word.” The Koran repeats twelve times that Allah has no son, saying that to claim that he does would impugn his transcendent majesty (2:116; 10:68; 17:111; 18:4; 19:35; 19:88; 19:91; 19:92; 21:26; 23:91; 39:04; 43:81). It also specifically rejects the Christian idea that Jesus is the Son of God (4:171; 9:30), at one point implying, remarkably, that Muhammad thought of the question in purely physical terms: “How can [Allah] have a Son when He has no consort?” (6:101).
Ultimately, the Koran concludes that Christians have departed from the truth by teaching the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ: “So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not ‘Three.’ Cease! (It is) better for you! Allah is only One Allah. Far is it removed from His Transcendent Majesty that He should have a son” (4:171).
The most significant Koranic departure from Christianity is its denial of the reality of the crucifixion of Christ: “They did not kill him, nor crucify him, but they thought they did [or literally, it appeared so to them].” The Jews boast that they killed Jesus—but they only think they did (4:157). In fact, Jesus escaped crucifixion, though how he did so is the source of some dispute. The traditional Islamic scholar Ibn Kathir argues that “when Allah sent ‘Isa [Jesus] with proofs and guidance, the Jews, may Allah’s curses, anger, torment and punishment be upon them, envied him because of his prophethood and obvious miracles. . .” Consumed by this envy, Ibn Kathir continues, the Jews stirred up “the king of Damascus at that time, a Greek polytheist who worshipped the stars” to order his deputy in Jerusalem to arrest Jesus. Jesus, perceiving this, asked those with him, “Who volunteers to be made to look like me, for which he will be my companion in Paradise?” A young man volunteered, whereupon “Allah made the young man look exactly like ‘Isa, while a hole opened in the roof of the house, and ‘Isa was made to sleep and ascended to heaven while asleep.” Then “those surrounding the house saw the man who looked like ‘Isa, they thought that he was ‘Isa. So they took him at night, crucified him and placed a crown of thorns on his head. The Jews then boasted that they killed ‘Isa and some Christians accepted their false claim, due to their ignorance and lack of reason.”
The Koran emphasizes that Jesus was a prophet of Allah, who did all his mighty works by order of Allah – and is thus not himself divine. Interestingly, unlike Muhammad, Jesus is depicted performing various miracles. But after these miracle stories, Allah again stresses that Jesus is not divine, asking him point blank: “O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah?” (5:116)
The Koran here seems to be criticizing the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, which it apparently envisions as consisting of Allah along with a deified Jesus and Mary. Ibn Kathir says the same thing, claiming the Christians elevated Jesus “and his mother to be gods with Allah.” The actual Christian Trinity of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not envisioned in the Koran.
In any case, Jesus denies having told his followers to worship him and his mother, and the passage concludes by repeating that those who believe otherwise will, of course, be punished (5:116).
The Koran even asserts that those who believe that Jesus is divine are themselves Infidels, and hell-bound to boot: “They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah (himself) said: O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Lo! Whoso ascribeth partners unto Allah, for him Allah hath forbidden paradise. His abode is the Fire. For evil-doers there will be no helpers.” (5:72).
Jesus is, far from being divine, a “slave of Allah” (Abdullah: 4:172; 19:30; 43:59). Calling Jesus a slave of Allah, of course, puts him on the same level as all created beings – for the master–slave relationship is the primary paradigm in Islam for human relations with the divine. Despite his Virgin Birth, despite his miracles, despite his being favored above the other prophets, Jesus is, in the final analysis, simply another created being, a slave of Allah. Those who assert otherwise, identifying Jesus with God, are Infidels: “They indeed have disbelieved who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary” (5:17).
In case the point is not clear, Allah directs Muhammad to say that Allah could destroy Jesus, his mother, and the entire earth if he so wished (5:17) – thereby vividly reasserting Allah’s absolute sovereignty, which the Koran appears to regard as threatened by the idea of the divinity of Christ.
The Koran declares that, just as Muhammad’s message confirmed that of the Gospel before it, Jesus told the Jews that his message confirmed that of the Torah. Jesus also said, according to the Koran, that he was the precursor of a messenger who would come after him, whose name would be Ahmad. But the people would dismiss Jesus’s miracles as “sorcery” (61:6) – recalling their dismissal of Moses (28:36) and Muhammad (28:48).
“Ahmad” means “the Most Praised One,” and it is etymologically related to Muhammad, which means “Praised One.” Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, a British Islamic scholar and convert to Islam, drove the connection home by translating “Ahmad” simply as “Praised One.” And Muslims universally understand the verse as depicting Jesus predicting the coming of Muhammad.
Muslims contend that this prophecy is the uncorrupted version of the words of Jesus that survive in corrupted form in John 14:16-17, where Jesus says, “And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.”
“Counselor” here is parakletos, or Paraclete. Some Islamic apologists have claimed this is a corruption of periklytos, which means “famous” or “renowned,” i.e., “Praised One.” However, there is no textual evidence whatsoever for this: no manuscripts of the New Testament exist that use the word periklytos in this place. Nor is it likely that the two words might have been confused. That kind of confusion may be theoretically possible in Arabic, which does not write vowels and hence would present two words with identical consonant structures. But Greek does write vowels, so the words would never in Greek have appeared as even close to identical.
In light of all this, it is clear that when the Koran refers to Jesus, it has in mind a figure who is strikingly different from the one in the New Testament. And the Koran is presented as the corrective to these New Testament “corruptions.” The idea that Christianity is a “distorted, deformed religion” created by people who were bent on rejecting the prophet Muhammad fuels a great deal of Muslim hatred for Christianity, Christians, and the West to this day.
FP: What are some strange things found in the Koran?
Spencer: The Koran tells of the strange journey of Moses and Khidr (18:60-82) -- one of the all-time great road-trip stories. Moses, traveling with his servant, forgets the fish they had carried along for their meal. Returning to retrieve it, they encounter “one of Our servants, on whom We had bestowed Mercy from Ourselves and whom We had taught knowledge from Our own Presence” (18:65). In Islamic tradition this man is identified as Al-Khadir or Al-Khidr, or, more commonly, Khidr, “the Green Man.” Some identify him as one of the prophets, others as a wali, a Muslim saint.
Moses asks Khidr, “May I follow thee,” so that “thou teach me something of the (Higher) Truth which thou hast been taught?” (18:66). Leery, Khidr finally consents provided Moses asks him no questions, and Moses agrees. Khidr and Moses then get on a boat, which Khidr immediately scuttles – whereupon Moses breaks his promise and upbraids Khidr; Khidr reminds him of his promise. Shortly thereafter, Khidr murders a young man in an apparently random act, and Moses criticizes him again, and Khidr reminds him once again that Moses had promised not to ask him any questions and to have patience when Khidr did something that Moses did not understand. Finally, Khidr rebuilds a wall in a town that had refused the two hospitality, and Moses scolds him yet again, telling Khidr that he could have gotten money for his work, which the two could have used to buy food and lodging.
Informing Moses that their journey is over, Khidr finally explains his strange actions. (Even Muhammad wanted to hear more, commenting, “We wished that Moses could have remained patient by virtue of which Allah might have told us more about their story.”) Khidr damaged the ship because a king is seizing “every boat by force” (18:79), but not ones that are unserviceable – presumably the poor owners of the boat could repair it once the king passed by. Khidr killed the young man because he would grieve his pious parents with his “rebellion and ingratitude” (18:80), and Allah will give them a better son. And there was buried treasure beneath the wall that belonged to boys too young to inherit it yet — so repairing it gave them time to reach maturity while protecting the treasure from theft.
The Koran translator Abdullah Yusuf Ali derives the lesson from the story that “even as the whole stock of the knowledge of the present day, the sciences and the arts, and in literature, (if it could be supposed to be gathered in one individual), does not include all knowledge. Divine knowledge, as far as man is concerned, is unlimited.” Furthermore, “There are paradoxes in life: apparent loss may be real gain; apparent cruelty may be real mercy; returning good for evil may really be justice and not generosity (18:79-82). Allah’s wisdom transcends all human calculation.”
Perhaps understandably in light of the strangeness of the story and the mystery embedded within it, Khidr looms large in Islamic mystical tradition. The eighth-century Sufi mystic Ibrahim Bin Adham (Abou Ben Adhem) once claimed, “In that wilderness I lived for four years. God gave me my eating without any toil of mine. Khidr the Green Ancient was my companion during that time — he taught me the Great Name of God.”
Another strange and pregnant passage in the Koran is this cryptic verse: “Above it are nineteen” (74:30).
That’s it. “Above it are nineteen.”
Above what? Nineteen what? The Koran doesn’t say, and that is where the fun begins. There are innumerable theories regarding this verse, including that of the Koranic scholar Günther Lüling, who suggests a slight alteration of the text to make it a simple reference to the gates of hell – which works in context.
However, Islamic scholars don’t generally take kindly to suggestions that the Koranic text should be changed – it is supposed to have been delivered by the angel Gabriel to Muhammad in perfect form, and preserved in that perfect form ever after. Thus believers must make do with the existing cryptic verse – and they have. It has become the foundation for numerous elaborate flights of Islamic numerology, attempting to show that this verse contains a hidden, number-based key that demonstrates the Koran’s miraculous character. The verse has also led to the development of mysticism surrounding the number nineteen -- such that some have opined, despite the many nominees for the role of “twentieth hijacker,” that there is no such person, and that precisely nineteen hijackers were chosen for the September 11 jihad missions because of the mystical significance of that number.
FP: Tell us how and why political correctness has made it almost impossible to discuss what is really in the Koran and in other Islamic texts.
Spencer: Political correctness would have us believe that the Koran is a book of peace, and that anyone who says otherwise is “bigoted,” “hateful,” and “Islamophobic.” But is it, really? What the Koran really says can easily be verified. If the Koran really curses Jews and Christians (9:30) and calls for warfare against them in order to bring about their subjugation (9:29), it is not “Islamophobic” to forewarn Infidels by pointing this out. It is simply a fact. And it should go without saying that it is not a fact that should move any reader of my book to hate anyone. The fact that the Koran counsels warfare against unbelievers should move readers to act in defense of freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the legal equality of all people, before it is too late.
FP: How does the misinterpretation of what the Koran and other Muslim texts teach endanger our security?
Spencer: Most Western analysts dogmatically deny that the Koran teaches violence and supremacism. Yet Muslims who believe this comprise a global movement, active from Indonesia to Nigeria and extending into Europe and North America, that is dedicated to waging war against “unbelievers” – that is, non-Muslims – and subjugating them as inferiors under the rule of Islamic law. This movement sees in the Koran its divine mandate to wage that war.
In March 2009, five Muslims accused of helping plot the September 11 attacks, including the notorious Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, wrote an “Islamic Response to the Government’s Nine Accusations.” In it they quote the Koran to justify their jihad war against the American Infidels. “In God’s book,” asserts the letter, “he ordered us to fight you everywhere we find you, even if you were inside the holiest of all holy cities, The Mosque in Mecca, and the holy city of Mecca, and even during sacred months. In God’s book, verse 9 [actually verse 5], Al-Tawbah [the Koran’s 9th chapter]: Then fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them, and seize them, and besiege them and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush.”
Osama bin Laden’s communiqués have also quoted the Koran copiously. In his 1996 “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” he quotes seven Koran verses: 3:145; 47:4-6; 2:154; 9:14; 47:19; 8:72; and the notorious “Verse of the Sword,” 9:5.[i] Bin Laden began his October 6, 2002, letter to the American people with two Koran quotations, both of a martial bent: “Permission to fight (against disbelievers) is given to those (believers) who are fought against, because they have been wronged and surely, Allah is Able to give them (believers) victory” (22:39) and “Those who believe, fight in the Cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve, fight in the cause of Taghut (anything worshipped other than Allah e.g. Satan). So fight you against the friends of Satan; ever feeble is indeed the plot of Satan” (4:76).”
In a sermon broadcast in 2003, bin Laden rejoiced in a Koranic exhortation to violence as being a means to establish the truth: “Praise be to Allah who revealed the verse of the Sword to his servant and messenger [the Islamic Prophet Muhammad], in order to establish truth and abolish falsehood.” The “Verse of the Sword” is Koran 9:5: “Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”
The idea that the Koran commands them to do violence to unbelievers runs from the very top of the international jihadist movement – Osama bin Laden – down to the rank and file. Overall, it is extremely rare – if not impossible – to find a jihadist who does not cite the Koran to justify his actions. Britain-based jihadist preacher, Abu Yahya, asserts simply, “It says in the Koran that we must try as much as we can to terrorise the enemy.” And Pakistani jihad leader Beitullah Mehsud claims that “Allah on 480 occasions in the Holy Koran extols Muslims to wage jihad. We only fulfill God’s orders. Only jihad can bring peace to the world.” He specified that his jihad – struggle in Arabic – was an offensive military operation: “We will continue our struggle until foreign troops are thrown out. Then we will attack them in the US and Britain until they either accept Islam or agree to pay jazia.” The “jazia,” or jizya, is a tax that the Koran (9:29) specifies must be levied on Jews, Christians, and some other non-Muslim faiths as a sign of their subjugation under the Islamic social order.
One pro-Osama website put it this way: “The truth is that a Muslim who reads the Koran with devotion is determined to reach the battlefield in order to attain the reality of Jihad. It is solely for this reason that the Kufaar [unbelievers] conspire to keep the Muslims far away from understanding the Koran, knowing that Muslims who understand the Koran will not distance themselves from Jihad.”
Yet a huge number of policy decisions are predicated upon the assumption that the Koran teaches peace, and that those who brandish Korans and commit violence are misunderstanding their own religion and perverting the teachings of their own holy book. These include U.S. government postures toward Pakistan and Egypt; immigration matters; airport security procedures; military strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan; domestic anti-terror policies; and our acquiescence to Saudi Arabia’s Islamic proselytizing campaign in America and many other countries.
But most government and media analysts dare not even question the assumption that the Koran is peaceful, for they believe that any insinuation to the contrary is racist, bigoted, and effectively brands all Muslims as terrorists. In other words, they think the implications of the possibility that the Koran teaches warfare against unbelievers are too terrible to even contemplate. Thus, many policymakers simply assume the Koran teaches peace without bothering to study the text. They do this to their own peril – and ours.
FP: What, in your view, is the Koran?
Spencer: It is the primary religious text of one of the world’s most prominent and influential religions. For more than a billion Muslims, the Koran is the unadulterated, pure word of Allah, eternal and perfect, delivered though the angel Gabriel to the prophet Muhammad. For Infidels, it is a threat, a call for their destruction or subjugation. Consequently, every Infidel needs to know what is in it, and plan accordingly to defend himself.
[i] Osama Bin Laden, “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” 1996. http://www.mideastweb.org/osamabinladen1.htm.