Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His new book is The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS.
Frontpage: Robert, welcome back to Frontpage interview.
Robert Spencer: Always great to chat with you, Jamie, thank you.
FP: Congrats on your new book coming out. Tell us about it.
Spencer: Thanks, Jamie. The book is entitled is The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS. And it’s just that: the first and only comprehensive history of fourteen centuries of jihad worldwide. This is the first time that there has been a book-length chronological narrative of the entire history of jihad, not just the jihad against Europe, which has been the focus of several worthy books, but also the devastatingly bloody jihad against India – a story that is almost entirely unknown in the West. This is also the first book that I know of that situates the jihad against Israel within the context of the 1,400-year history of worldwide jihad and Islamic anti-Semitism. Along the way, it touches on numerous related matters, including chattel slavery and the sexual enslavement of infidel women, which wasn’t invented by ISIS but actually goes all the way back to the beginning of Islam.
FP: This sounds like a much-needed book that fill in the gaps in a lot of people’s understanding of what we’re up against. How and when did you get the idea to write it?
Spencer: Jamie, this is the one book I’ve wanted to write for well over a decade. That’s primarily because there is no other book like it. J. D. Salinger once said that he wrote the books that he wanted to read and that didn’t exist. I’ve followed that practice more than once, and never more so than in this book.
This book is nothing less than the crown and completion of my three decades of work trying to alert people to the nature and magnitude of the global jihad threat. I’ve written a guide to the Qur’an – The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran. And I’ve written a biography of Muhammad based on the earliest Islamic sources: The Truth About Muhammad. And today, most people who are informed and willing to be honest about these issues understand that there are some deeply problematic aspects to both the Qur’an and to Muhammad’s career – I hope at least in part because of my efforts. But there persists among all too many people the idea that whatever is written in the Islamic texts, in practice it hasn’t really been that bad.
The accounts included in this book are as noteworthy for what they don’t say as for what they do. The attentive reader will note that there is no period since the beginning of Islam that was characterized by large-scale peaceful coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims. There was no time when mainstream and dominant Islamic authorities taught the equality of non-Muslims with Muslims, or the obsolescence of jihad warfare. There was no Era of Good Feeling, no Golden Age of Tolerance, no Paradise of Proto-Multiculturalism. There has always been, with virtually no interruption, jihad. This book completes the case I have been making for decades now.
FP: Wow! So your work is done, eh? What will you do now?
Spencer: Jamie, I don’t know! Maybe I’ll go bowling, or pick up the soprano saxophone again!
Seriously, I’ll keep working, as there is always more than can be done. But with this book, I have said everything that I set out so many years ago to say.
FP: This book is a history, but it is also clearly relevant for the contemporary debate. Isn’t that true?
Spencer: Oh, yes, Jamie. I think of this book as the literary equivalent of the Brexit vote and the election of President Trump. It is a shot against the ongoing efforts by the political and media elites to rewrite history: the myth of a tolerant, pluralistic Islamic Spain is just one example among many. George Orwell said: “He who controls the past controls the future,” and there are concerted efforts today, of which few people are aware, to rewrite history to fit the contemporary’s Left’s globalist, socialist agenda. For example, the false claim that the Vikings had the name “Allah” stitched on their burial clothes recently made international headlines – it was all part of the attempt to get Swedes, and all Europeans, to accept mass Muslim migration without complaint.
Also, this book is intended to be a blow against the foreign policy establishment that has made so many errors based on its improper assessment of global conflicts, and keeps on making those same errors again and again because it never stops to reexamine its premises. The war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and so much more have been predicated on the assumption that Islam is a religion of peace that is perfectly compatible with Western notions of secular, democratic rule, and perfectly comfortable with the idea of non-Muslim governments existing on land once governed by Islamic law.
There are also the bedrock assumptions of the foreign policy establishment that we are all post-modern individuals now, and that there is no conflict that cannot be ironed out by negotiations, and that religious imperatives can always be negotiated away with the proper mix of concessions. These false assumptions and many others are exploded by the reality of history as I delineate in the book. This doesn’t mean that there are no solutions to contemporary global problems, but that the solutions being applied today are all based on false premises. In the book I trace a phenomenon that has been consistent and implacable for fourteen hundred years. Why do we in the U.S. today think that our encounter with it will be different? My fondest hope is that American policymakers will read and study this book, and that it will do nothing less than transform our entire foreign policy approach, moving it to more realistic foundations.
FP: Tell us about your research for this book and your use of primary sources.
Spencer: In amassing this history of jihad from Muhammad to ISIS, I have endeavored wherever possible to quote the words of contemporary witnesses to the various events described, so that the reader may get some impression of what it was really like to experience the advance of jihad.
Many of the contemporary chroniclers I quote are Muslim, and it’s illuminating in itself to see how they glory in the bloodlust and brutality of Islamic jihad warriors. I used their own words wherever and whenever possible, so that readers can see their mindset for itself, and I actually avoided using the assessments of modern-day historians. All too often these are clouded by politically correct biases and a refusal to assess the reality of jihad activity for what it is and always has been.
FP: When will The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS be published, and what else can you tell us about it?
Spencer: August 7 is the official release date, but the book is available now for pre-order (click here). At 448 pages, it is a thorough, exhaustive treatment, but the reader will not get bogged down: historian Efraim Karsh, author of the acclaimed book Islamic Imperialism, calls it a “tour de force” and says it is “a must read for anyone seeking to understand the roots of the Manichean struggle between East and West and the nature of the threat confronted by the West today.”
Another historian, Bruce Thornton of California State University, whose writings have often graced FrontPage, says it’s “a page-turner” and adds: “Robert Spencer, one of our foremost analysts of Islamic jihad, has now written a historical survey of the doctrine and practice of Islamic sanctified violence. With crystal clarity and rigorous argument, he relentlessly marshals the facts that put the lie to the sophistries of apologists and the delusions of Western appeasers.”
David Pietrusza, the bestselling author of several books on American history, said this about me and the book: “Few Westerners know more about Islam and jihad than Robert Spencer. Fewer still write with greater honesty or more fearlessly. A concise but essential account of a millennium-old war on human freedom and dignity.”
Daniel Pipes, who has written a history of the Mamluks entitled Slave Soldiers and Islam: The Genesis of a Military System, had this to say:
Spencer argues, in brief, ‘There has always been, with virtually no interruption, jihad.’ Painstakingly, he documents in this important study how aggressive war on behalf of Islam has, for fourteen centuries and still now, befouled Muslim life. He hopes his study will awaken potential victims of jihad, but will they – will we – listen to his warning? Much hangs in the balance.
And the renowned and pioneering historian of dhimmitude, Bat Ye’or, commented: “In a time of cowardice and deliberate falsehood, the courageous and scholarly exposure of the greatest challenges and dangers of our time by Robert Spencer is priceless.”
FP: Thanks so much for joining Frontpage Interview, Robert. And congratulations on this exciting and unique new book. We wish you all the best with it.
Spencer: Thank you, Jamie.