The initial three quarters of Robert Spencer’s The History of Jihad: From Muhammad to ISIS
, is so packed with information about the 1,400-year jihad waged by Islam against the world that one can only read it with continuous, stunned astonishment.
You wind up asking yourself: did so many millions die or become enslaved by the sword of Islam, AKA the “religion of peace”?
Well, yes, they did. Whole populations were slaughtered, cities were destroyed, and nations, on all four continents
, were erased as though they had never existed (Persia
, for example, was never Iran). Spencer meticulously traces the bloody depredations and history of Islam from the 19th
century clear back to Mohammad’s time in the seventh century, citing current and contemporary works on the conquests and triumphs of Islam by both Western and Islamic writers and chroniclers. The jihad never stopped, and rarely lost steam, but if it lost impetus, it was only because of infighting between sects of Islam, which temporarily sapped and diverted its energy and appetite for conquest and dominance, but
jihad was rarely forgotten. Jihad
It continues in our age of jet planes and nuclear power to wreck death and destruction. It guarantees more if the West does not reverse its ludicrously pacific and “tolerant” appraisal of Islam and condemn it as a power-hungry totalitarian “religion,” which it has always been, especially in the actions of the possibly fictive character
of Muhammad. Spencer recreates and details Islam’s history as no writer in the past has done before or is likely to replicate. Spencer’s book should become required reading for any government policymaker or foreign affairs specialist committed to understanding our nemesis.
The beginnings of Islam are shrouded in mystery
. There are thousands and thousands of reports (hadith
…) of the words and deeds of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, but virtually all of them date from the eighth and ninth centuries, over a century after Muhammad’s death, which is traditionally set in 632. There is considerable reason to believe that the origins of Islam and the lives of its founding figures are quite different from how they are represented in Islamic sacred history. (Chapter1, p. 16)
(My own humble interpretation, as a novelist [and as an atheist], of the history of Islam, is that it has been fundamentally a work-in-progress, with no finishing due-date contemplated or even in sight. The curtain has not yet fallen on this blood-thirsty drama, and won’t until Islam has been refuted, once and for all.)
From Chapter 1 to Chapter 10 – “The West Loses the Will to Live” – one is immersed in the constant carnage and massacres by jihad until one is inured by the sword swinging and head lopping. From the Arabian Peninsula to India, from North Africa to Europe and the high seas, it is Spencer, like the chorus of Henry V,
bringing to life – so to speak – the advance of Islam. Personally, I had trouble remembering all the players’ names, except perhaps Vlad the Impaler’s,
In 1461, Mehmet brought the sword of Islam against the Wallachian prince, Vlad Dracula, whose surname meant “son of the dragon,” after his father, who was known as the Dragon, or Dracul.
At one point, Dracula’s forces invaded Ottoman territory and then retreated; when Mehmet’s forces entered the area in Targoviste in modern-day Romania, they encountered the horrifying sight of twenty thousand corpses impaled on stakes, Vlad Dracula’s favorite method of execution — which earned him the named Vlad the Impaler. Mehmet pursued Dracula and finally drove him into exile; upon this victory, Mehmet’s commander presented him with the gift of two thousand heads of Dracula’s men. (Chapter Six, p. 201)
In a side note on the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Spencer remarks:
One consequence of the fall of Constantinople was the emigration of Greek intellectuals to Western Europe. Muslim territorial expansion at Byzantine expense led so many Greeks to seek refuge in the West that Western universities became filled with Platonists and Aristotelians to an unprecedented extent. This lead to the rediscovery of classical philosophy and literature and to an intellectual and cultural flowering the like of which the world had never seen (and still hasn’t). (Chapter Six, p. 200)
Chapter 10 can leave one depressed and outraged. Spencer details just how our political leaders, after 9/11, put their heads in the sand and gave Islam a free pass to continue its jihad. President Bush, after 9/11, said with a straight face that Islam had been “hijacked
” by “extremists,” evading the knowledge that Islam is nothing but “extreme,” as its theologians and generals have asserted countless times over the centuries.
Fast forwarding to the 21st
century, we can hear the words
of one Muslim activist:
Haitham Ibn Thbait, a member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir America, said [in 2015, in Illinois], that Islam stands in “total contradiction to what the West represents” – liberalism, democracy, feminism, and movements such as DREAM, #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ, pro-choice groups, and Occupy Wall Street.
Speaking at Hizb-ut-Tahrir America’s annual Khilafa (“Caliphate”) Conference, he said that “we should be working within our own system, not democracy” and warned that “our children might prefer democracy to Islam.”
“But what we need to understand is that the battle between us and the West is an ideological battle. It’s an ideological battle. Everything we represent goes in total contradiction to what the West represents…”
Spencer touches briefly but tellingly on the official, non-intellectual stance of the West on Islam:
On September 17, 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush appeared at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. , in the company of several prominent Muslim leaders, and said:
These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. [They don’t; the Koran and Hadith repeatedly state that “innocents” are as much as Islam’s enemy as armed soldiers, and can also be slain.] In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For they that reject the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.
The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.
When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that’s made brothers and sisters out of every race…. (Chapter 10, pp. 331-2) [Bush implies the fallacy that Islam is related to race.]
Few Western politicians and champions of “diversity” can grasp the essence of Islam or are willing to wipe the fuzz from their eyes even when it is enunciated so clearly – that the conflict between the West and Islam is an ideological battle.
Islam is here to dominate
. That is the message of Haitham Ibn Thbait. That has been the message of every jihadi offering life, if his prey converts to Islam, or agrees to pay the poll-tax (jizya
), or death, from Jerusalem to Paris, to Nice, to New York City, Manchester and London. Those were the only choices offered the victims.
Often the choices have not even been offered, as jihadi assaults occur without warning and people die, in the case of Paris 130 at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, or in the WTC and the Pentagon, 3,000.
From the butchery at Badr
at the beginning of Islam and jihad in 624 to the Armenian Genocide to the beginning of Wahhabism to the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in our time (in 1928), Spencer paints a compelling, doleful saga of Islamic ascendancy which the West has opposed either ineptly or with craven cowardice.
Which brings me to some ancillary issues raised by Spencer. Whatever you think of the movie Khartoum,
one of the last “epics” of our time (1966)
of its fealty to fact, (Spencer discusses the Mahdi (Chapter Eight, pp. 281-9), one must concede it is a great movie.
However, a few things throw wrenches in its fealty. It’s doubtful that “Chinese” Gordon (played by Charlton Heston) ever met Sufi sheik Muhammad Ahmed (convincingly played by Laurence Olivier)as it is portrayed in the movie) or that Ahmed forbade his warriors to decapitate Gordon once they had captured Khartoum. As a Sufi, the Mahdi would not have had any affection or respect for Gordon.
The following year , flush with these unexpected victories, the Mahdi’s army besieged Khartoum. Finding a way into the city, the Mahdists found Gordon and cried out, “O cursed one, your time has come!” They beheaded Gordon and either killed or sold into slavery thirty thousand men, women, and children. (Chapter Eight, p. 285)
Then there is Lawrence of Arabia.
For the longest time, it remained one of my favorite “adventure” films. I first saw it when it debuted in 1962. But after learning more about WWI, my bias for the film dwindled. In 2014 I published “A Reappraisal
in which I discussed not a few inaccuracies in it.
|The stuff that dreams are made of
For one thing, the Saudis did not fight the Turks, but rather sat on the sidelines sipping tea with the British and collecting from them a regular subsidy. Spencer wrote:
In 1914, the British and the Ottomans agreed to a partition of the Arabian Peninsula with Ibn Saud
nominally the viceroy of the Ottomans as the emir of Najd. When the Hashemite Hussein ibn Ali,
the sharif of Mecca, rose up against the Ottomans in 1916 with the intention of forming an independent Arab state – the British, including Colonel T.E. Lawrence, who came to be known as Lawrence of Arabia
— supported him.
The British did not, however, support Hussein’s claim to be “King of the Arab Countries” and did not fulfill the promises they had made to him to support the independence of Arab lands.
Ibn Saud did not like “The King of the Arab Countries,” either, and waged war against Hussein, eventually defeating him and driving him out of Arabia in 1924 [I cover this unknown bit of history in my novel The Black Stone
]. (Chapter Nine, p. 294)
In the film, there was no Arab charge at Aqaba (the Arabs walked in by agreement with the Turks), there were no Sauds present during the massacre of the Turkish column, and so on. See my Reappraisal
It was difficult to choose which subjects Spencer wrote about to feature in the review: the rapes, the executions, from the burning of churches and their conversion into mosques, the destruction of art, the enslavement of populations, the birth and growth of the Janissaries (who eventually became Islam’s “shock troops”)…there were so many of them, hundreds of pages of atrocities — where would I start? When you scan all the incidents of jihad described in the book, you must be additionally astounded by the depth and scope of Spencer’s research and encyclopedic knowledge of not only the character of Islam but also of his grasp of the specific and gory details of each conquest. “The History of Jihad” is a monumental exposé of Islam and its unquenchable appetite for conquest and submission to totalitarian rule.