Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Spencer interview with Le blog drzz

Robert Spencer

Annika of the French-language blog drzz recently interviewed me, and the interview, in French ... here is an English translation of the interview: ANNIKA: Fundamentalist Islam claims to find its roots in the Koran, therefore the holy book itself could be said to harbor directives irreconcilable with democratic values, the first amendment, equal rights for men and women, and the judicial system. Do you perceive this as correct?

SPENCER: Certainly the way the Koran has been understood throughout the history of Islam by the vast majority of orthodox commentators and theologians, and by the schools of Islamic jurisprudence and its various sects, harbor directives that are irreconcilable with democratic values, the first amendment, equal rights for men and women, and the judicial system. This enables contemporary jihadists to make the case successfully among peaceful Muslims and cultural Muslims that they represent pure and true Islam, and that if one wants to live Islam authentically, one must do as they do. Muslims who profess not to share their view have not yet formulated an effective Islamic comeback to that claim. It may not be utterly impossible for them to do this, but they have not done it yet, and it would involve an explicit rejection of Koranic literalism in many particulars.

ANNIKA: There has been some effort to prove "irreconcilable differences" between democratic values and the Koran. There were constitutional decrees written by the Turkish court as well as the European court. What else must be done to establish this as truth -- and how?

SPENCER: It will never be established as truth unless the current political and cultural environment changes radically. But if objective truth were the only or primary criterion, which it certainly is not now, one would be able by appeal to various Koranic verses and to the ways they have been understand in Islamic theology and law to establish that Islamic law, Sharia, is an all-encompassing system that has no room for democratic values in many particulars. It denies equality of rights before the law for women and non-Muslims. It denies the freedom of conscience and the freedom of speech.

This debate should ultimately be held in the public square, and Muslims in Western countries called upon to reject explicitly these elements of Islamic tradition, and to back up their rejection with deeds, instituting transparent and inspectable programs to teach against political Islam. But whether or not this debate is ever held, Europeans, and Americans also, will be faced sooner or later with the confrontation between democratic values and the Koran, because the bland denials of Islamic apologists will ultimately give way to the pressure of reality.

ANNIKA: "Jihad" is a term mentioned repeatedly in the Koran. Is the meaning of the word an "inner struggle" over temptation, as some Muslim apologists claim? Or what is the exact meaning of the word?

SPENCER: The word means “struggle,” and has as many connotations as the English word struggle does. The Islamic Republic of Iran has a Department of Agricultural Jihad, which has to do with the struggle to increase crop yields. But the primary meaning of “jihad” in the Qur’an, Hadith, and Islamic law is warfare against unbelievers in order to subjugate them under the hegemony of Islamic law. This effort can involve hot warfare, but need not. Muhammad explains in a hadith (Sahih Muslim 4294) that Muslims should invite non-Muslims to convert to Islam or to enter the Islamic social order as inferiors, paying the poll tax (jizya) and submitting to various forms of institutionalized discrimination. If they refuse both, the Muslims should go to war with them.

Jihadist theorists such as Hassan Al-Banna and Abdullah Azzam have criticized as inauthentic the tradition of Muhammad establishing that jihad is primarily an inner struggle against temptation. And indeed, it does not appear in any of the collections of hadith (traditions of Muhammad’s words and deeds) that Muslims deem most authentic.

ANNIKA: The Koran states explicitly (2:106, 16:101) that Mohammed’s earlier words (deemed peaceful) are overruled by his later writings (deemed hostile). Is this analysis accurate?

SPENCER: Certainly the chronologically earlier passages of the Koran, such as sura 109, teach tolerance of other religions, while chronologically later passages teach warfare against unbelievers – even Jews and Christians, as in 9:29. And it is a central Islamic doctrine, shared by all orthodox sects and schools, that the chronologically later parts of the Qur’an take precedence over the earlier ones if there is any disagreement between the two.

ANNIKA: Since 9-11, Islam has been referred to as "the religion of peace" in the West. Would you characterize Islam as the "religion of peace"? And could you explain how you came to this understanding.

SPENCER: No, Islam is not a religion of peace. It is the only religion in the world with a developed doctrine, theology and legal system mandating warfare against unbelievers. Of course, there are many millions of Muslims who have no interest in pursuing any of this, but those who do can and do claim the mantle of Islamic authenticity. I came to this understanding through study of Islamic texts and teachings.

ANNIKA: Western Islamic experts as well as some Muslims, advocate for reformation (modernization) of the Koran. After all, other monotheistic religions from the Middle East have grown and changed over time. Do you think that Islam can be modernized? And if so, how?

SPENCER: It will be very difficult, since the Koran claims for itself many times that it is the perfect and unalterable word of God. Islam could only conceivably be modernized by an explicit rejection of Koranic literalism.

ANNIKA: What is your opinion on the said secret archive of ancient Islamic texts, claimed to have surfaced after 60 years of suppression (Andrew Higgins' Wall Street Journal Report (The Lost Archives)). Are they real?

SPENCER: I haven’t seen them, but I see no reason why they wouldn’t be real. Islamic apologists frequently claim that there are no variant Koranic texts, and that this is a manifestation of the divine protection of the Koran, but this is factually false. There are already some known variants. There is no reason why more couldn’t be discovered.

ANNIKA: Is there any empirical evidence that Mohammed did in fact exist?

SPENCER: No. The earliest biography of him dates from 150 years after his death. The Koran contains almost no details about him. It is possible that he himself was cobbled together from traditions about other people, in order to give the new Arab religion a founding and unifying figure.

ANNIKA: There is relative "anarchy" in the clerical system (Ulemas) and it is difficult to identify a real hierarchy or organization. Is it Al Azar in Egypt, Mecca, Nadjaf, Qom? Where are the central places of Islamic influence? What power do they hold, and for whom?

SPENCER: There is no single hierarchy with one head, a la the Catholic Church. Rather, there are centers of scholarship – Al-Azhar for Sunnis, Najaf and Qom for Shi’ites – and centers of piety – holy cities such as Mecca. All are influential, but no single voice can command the loyalty of all the Muslim faithful. In Islamic theology there is a premium placed on ijma, or consensus: an agreement among the scholars gives great weight to a particular teaching. And unfortunately, there is consensus among the classical scholars on the necessity of jihad warfare against unbelievers.

ANNIKA: European integration problems are not racial in nature but rather symptomatic of a clash between civilizations. Do you agree with this statement?

SPENCER: Yes. They have nothing to do with race, and everything to do with the Islamic supremacist ideology that regards European culture and civilization as inferior and to be supplanted by Islamic Sharia.

ANNIKA: As a group, Muslims who immigrated to Europe often collide with each other (Turks/Arabs, Kurds/Turks, Arabs/Maghrébins, etc.). Why do you think this happens? After all, they share the same religion.

SPENCER: Sure, but a religion is one thing, and how it is received and lived out in the life of any given individual is quite another. There are many loyalties and priorities in everyone’s life. These conflicts stem from cultural and political conflicts back home, which are being imported into Europe.

ANNIKA: Was there ever in history, groups of Muslims who willingly integrated and adopted the cultural standards of a non-Muslim host nation?


ANNIKA: What will the future hold for Europe? And do you have a message for our European leaders on a long term approach for the harmonious integration of Muslims?

SPENCER: Europe will be Islamic by the end of this century, as Bernard Lewis has predicted, unless European leaders reverse their present policies on many issues. European leaders will ultimately find that Muslims in the aggregate will reject harmonious integration on any terms except the full implementation of Islamic law in Europe.

ANNIKA: Thank you, Mr. Spencer, for having taken time to answer us. It is a privilege to interview you….

And thank you, Annika and everyone at drzz, for the opportunity.

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