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Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.
“Speaking freely about Islam is clearly more risky. But difficult questions must be asked and answered—if the West is going to face the terrorist threat adequately. For if there are elements of Islam itself that engender violence, it is neither irresponsible nor hateful to say so.”
Robert Spencer wrote those words in the opening of “Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions about the World’s Fastest-Growing Faith.” It was 2002 and we were all on a terrible journey into a different world leaving behind the peace that we thought we had earned a right to in the aftermath of the Cold War.
Beginning with “Islam Unveiled,” Robert Spencer would be our guide in this world. His books charted the development of the threat. A decade ago, he wrote "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam." Now he has written "The Complete Infidel's Guide to ISIS." And it, like all his many books, are motivated by, as he wrote in Islam Unveiled, the need “to look squarely at what the West is really up against.”
The rise of ISIS has dismantled many of the politically correct pieties that Robert Spencer has spent so much time deconstructing. ISIS may be the first almost fully honest Islamic terrorist organization because its worldview is not rooted in the stealth Jihad of an extended campaign against a stronger West practiced by Muslim Brotherhood front groups and the Brotherhood’s Al Qaeda splinter, but of an apocalyptic conquest in which the triumph of Islam is so imminent that there is no more need for Taqiyya.
ISIS has so effectively crushed the politically correct myths about Islam that the establishment has been sent reeling into deeper levels of denial. Politicians throw tantrums and refuse to call the Islamic State by its name. They insist that it’s a group of psychotic nihilists that have nothing to do with Islam. And yet Muslims around the world have flocked to its black banner. They claim that admitting the truth about ISIS aids the terrorists and that the only way to defeat the Islamic State is through vigorous denials.
While they huddle behind their flimsy shelters of lies, once again, our invaluable guide steps into the breach with another book, exposing the myths about ISIS and revealing what its existence means for Islam and a besieged free world.
Beginning with its origins, Robert Spencer charts the rise of ISIS from long before Obama was insisting that the terror group was a jayvee team. He demonstrates that ISIS is not an aberration, but part of a historical continuity with groups such as the Assassins and more recent precedents in the Wahhabi forces of Saudi Arabia. "Al Qaeda is simply an especially virulent outgrowth of Wahhabism. And ISIS is just an especially virulent outgrowth of Al Qaeda,” Spencer points out.
While Obama, Kerry and Cameron insist that ISIS is something unique and deviant with no basis in Islam, Robert Spencer details its links to Islamic theology using the words and writings of its own leaders. But more importantly he brings out the Islamic subtext that serves as the background grammar for all the terror group’s tactical and philosophical discussions to demonstrate that not only is ISIS not “un-Islamic,” but its entire worldview is thoroughly saturated with Islamic theology.
There would be no ISIS without Islam.
Contrary to the claims that ISIS is hijacking Islam, the Islamic State is actually trying to realize it. The frame of reference of its leaders is the Koran. Their geopolitics is neither the modern frame of conservatives nor the post-modern one of liberals, but a retroactive mythical history of the Koran.
ISIS is not hijacking the Koran. It is living the Koran. When it beheads, enslaves and conquers, it is following Mohammed’s mandate. Its level of brutality is only unprecedented in our time, but not in the historical space in which Islam originated which the Islamic State is striving to recreate.
Robert Spencer examines the “lone wolf attacks” in America, Europe and Canada that were guided and inspired by ISIS. Once again he locates the Islamic roots of each attack disproving efforts to blame foreign policy, mental illness and the usual range of excuses that are routinely used to cover up acts of Islamic terrorism. Spencer finds that each attacker had a worldview grounded in Islamic theology.
Likewise the disputes between ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups are not a sign that the former is extremist and the latter moderate, but represent a power struggle between various organizations. Robert Spencer details some of these disputes, the theological stakes in them and their outcome.
Taken together, "The Complete Infidel's Guide to ISIS" forms a comprehensive picture of the structure, tactics and threat that the Islamic State poses to non-Muslims and the West. It is a picture that not only ties together the terror group’s different arms and tactics, but that also explains its worldview on its own terms.
Robert Spencer’s long career has been dedicated to warning us about the process that broke apart the old Islamic structure and made way for new Islamic groups struggling to regain what had been lost. ISIS is the most significant evolution in this effort to resurrect the Caliphate and yet it is a natural outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda. Its existence proves once again the value and importance of his scholarly work at a time when our own government is more determined than ever to ignore it.
Obama has tossed aside the study of the roots of Islamic violence for the promotion of appeasement toward what some call “political Islam”. A generation of law enforcement and military personnel is being left deliberately ignorant of the nature of the enemy and how its leaders and operatives plan and think. They are told that the answer lies not in understanding ISIS, but in collaborating with the Muslim Brotherhood. "The Complete Infidel's Guide to ISIS" fills this empty space with a look at the Islamic State that is easy to understand for the casual readers and studious enough for the dedicated professional.
Like death and taxes, Islamic terrorism has become a part of our lives. Ever since September 11, its presence has been inescapable. As the evolution of the Jihad continues, we can be confident that Robert Spencer will continue dedicatedly documenting it as he has been doing all these years.