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Meditation 582
The Politically Incorrect GuideTM to Islam (and the Crusades): A Review

The Politically Incorrect GuideTM to Islam (and the Crusades), Robert Spencer, Regnery Publishing 2005

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A disadvantage of buying books online is that a book cannot be browsed properly prior to purchase. If I had actually been able to open this intellectually dishonest book in a bookstore, it would have been promptly returned to the shelf.

To summarize the content:

  • Islam - bad
  • Jihad - bad
  • Insha'Allah (God willing) - bad
  • Christianity - good
  • Crusade - good
  • Deus Vult (God wills it) - good

This book may be politically incorrect, but it most certainly is not a guide to Islam. It is an extended rant denouncing Islam which deliberately gives the most extreme possible interpretation to the sayings of Mohammed. If you want to believe that the Islam of Osama bin Laden is true Islam, then this book is for you. However, does it reflect Islam as actually practiced by the majority of Muslims in the world? I don't think so.

The text is so biased it ignores the basic framework of Islamic life - the Five Pillars of Islam. There is one passing mention in the entire book, only in a slighting reference to Zakat (or charity.) Without an introduction to and a discussion of the Five Pillars of Islam, no text can honestly be called a "guide to Islam."

The author has two narrative tricks he uses throughout the text. First he compares the words of Mohammed to the words of Jesus. Secondly, he scatters throughout the book, brief discussions of other works which support his views under the heading: "A Book You're Not Supposed to Read."

Let's deal with the second item first. Obviously, every one of these books that we are not supposed to read is a book that Spencer recommends. These books, like Spencer's, are purportedly politically incorrect. Not once does Spencer identify those who have told us we are not supposed to read these books. I suppose it is the anonymous and ever useful "they" who are suppressing these books. Not one of these books have ever been identified to me as books I am not supposed to read. And I suggest it is highly unlikely that any of Spencer's readers have been told not to read these books. Spencer's categorization of these books is, in my view, dishonest.

But let's return to his theme of comparing the words of Mohammed and Jesus to show the superiority of Christianity over Islam.. Superficially, it seems to be a reasonable tactic. Yet there is a fundamental difference. Islam is indeed based on the words of Mohammed; Christianity however is not. Comparatively few of Jesus's words survive, and Christianity is based not on his words, but on texts (the New and the Old Testaments) written over a period of about 1000 years by many men, and some of those texts are based on an oral tradition developed over several thousand years. So, a comparison of the words of Mohammed to those of Jesus is unfair, indeed dishonest. A proper comparison would be of the entire text of the Qu'ran to the entire Bible. That however would not serve the author's purpose - it would bring in verses from the Bible every bit as bloodthirsty, if not more so, as some of Mohammed's.

The final chapters of the book are a defence of the Crusades. "Deus Vult!", which Spencer uses in place of a dedication in his book, was the motto of the First Crusade. "Deus Vult! = "God wills it." Somehow Spencer fails to find a Jesus quotation to support the Crusades. All his carefully selected Jesus quotations were about peace and love. Still, Spencer claims the Crusades were necessary to counter Muslim expansion. Yet the predominantly German and French armies raised to conduct the first Crusade did not attack the Muslims who controlled the Iberian Peninsular (Spain and Portugal) which was from where Islamic expansion most threatened Europe at the time. Such a sensible strategy would have given the Crusader army secure interior supply lines and if successful, would have cut off further Muslim incursions into western Europe, and provided a base from which to recover previously Catholic northwestern Africa. But instead, - this Catholic army went all across Europe with the Pope's blessing, through Orthodox Christian territory, with a significant amount of looting, pillaging, murder (of Jews, fellow Catholics, and Orthodox Christians) en route to attack Jerusalem. Spencer seems to think that because this was religiously inspired, then it is right. However, it is the religious aim of this war to take Jerusalem (rather than the pretended defensive aims) that contributes to making the Crusades morally reprehensible.

Is Islam as bad as Spencer makes out? Certainly some varieties can be. But, no version of Christianity now or ever has based its beliefs solely on the carefully selected quotations of Jesus that Spencer uses. Versions of Christianity can be, and have been, just as evil and bloodthirsty as the narrow version of Islam that Spencer presents. Spencer is dishonest about his own religion; how can he be relied on to provide a balanced guide to another one?