The Watchtower on Jihad: An Interview with Robert Spencer

Article published December 17, 2017 by Robert Spencer on

“The Watchtower on Jihad: An interview with Robert Spencer,” by Niram Ferretti, Informale:

For many years Robert Spencer has written extensively about Islam and jihad, debunking the common misconception according to which the theological-political system founded by Mohammed in the VII century, is essentially a religion of peace.

The director and founder of “Jihadwatch” has become the bugbear of the many apologists of Islam, both in the United States and abroad, who, in order to delegitimize his work have qualified him as an “islamophobe”, the smear definition used so often today as a stigma against all those who criticize Islam. With his usual irony, Spencer has titled his latest book, “Confessions of an Islamophobe”.

A regular on L’Informale, he has accepted to answer some new questions.

Mr. Spencer, Islam, like Judaism, does not have a central authority. In the Sunni world there are four main schools of jurisprudence, Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i and Hanbali. Apart from the different exegetical approach of these schools can we say that in the Islamic world there is a general consensus regarding the main role and duty of a devout Muslim?

Yes there is very much a consensus among all the madhahib, schools of jurisprudence about the necessity to impose Islamic law over the world. This is not something about which there is disagreement. There is a great value placed upon Ijma, consensus in Islamic law. If something is agreed upon by the scholars of all the principal schools of jurisprudence, then it is considered to be settled and not to be open to discussion any longer. Mohammed is said to have stated “My community will not agree on an error” and so, unfortunately for non Muslims, the teachings that the Muslim community must wage jihad warfare against non Muslims in order to impose Islamic law upon them and subjugate them as inferiors. These are points that are all agreed upon in all the schools of jurisprudence and as such are not considered to be opened to further reform or change.

According to the late Sudanese religious thinker Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, the Quran has two different and contrasting messages, one more peaceful, which the prophet Mohammed preached in Mecca, and the other more intolerant and violent, which he preached when he lived in Medina. Taha thought that only by repudiating the second message Islam could be brought to its essential message. For his ideas he was arrested and executed in Sudan in I985. Would you like to comment?

Of course, Mahmud Mohamed Taha did not originate the division of the Quran into the Meccan suras and the Medina suras, this is something that is traditional and is part of classic Quranic exegesis among mainstream Islamic scholars, and certainly he did not originate the idea either that the Meccan passages are more peaceful than the Medina passages. Actually they are not kind to unbelievers and are constantly threatening them with hellfire but they are not counseling warfare against unbelievers either. As far as Taha is concerned, when he says that the Meccan passages are more tolerant and should take precedence over the Medina passages that counsel warfare, this is against the grain of standard Islamic theology which teaches that the Medinan passages since they come later chronologically in Mohammed’s life, supersede the Meccan passages. In chapter 2 verse 106 of the Quran, Allah says “We do not abrogate a verse or cause to be forgotten, except that We bring forth one better than it or similar to it”. Thus the chronological precedence is absolute. If something comes later and it seems to contradict what comes earlier, then what comes later takes precedence. This means that warfare against unbelievers is always the highest and final stage of jihad for Quranic believers. Taha was condemned as a heretic because his views were not traditional and they constituted innovation Bidah, which is a great sin in Islam. So while I wish that it were so, that the Meccan passages superseded the Medinan passages and that Taha were correct, unfortunately his view goes against the tradition of Islamic theology and it was for that reason that he was executed.

We often hear the distinction between “political Islam” and an Islam which is not political. It sounds bizarre, as Islam has been political since its inception. What do you have to say about this?

You are absolutely right. Islam has been political since its inception. It is noteworthy that Mohammed was a prophet, or claimed to be a prophet according to the Islamic traditions, for twenty three years, and for the first twelve years when he was in Mecca, he was only a preacher of religious ideas. It was not until the hijra, when he and his followers moved to Medina, that he became a political and a military leader as well as a religious one. It was then that the Islamic calendar begins with year one, this is the year of the hijra of Mohammed to Medina. Muslims are beginning Islam at the point when it becomes political, not at the point when Mohammed begins to preach, when he begins to preach or state that there is no God but Allah and no other prophet but Mohammed. This shows in itself that the political aspect of Islam is considered by mainstream Muslims to be intrinsic to it and not separable from it. You have to have a political aspect for it to be Islam at all. The political is not separable from Islam, at least if you are speaking traditional.

One of the main modern Muslim sects, if not the main one, that brought back the necessity of jihad, was the Muslim Brotherhood, founded by Hasan al Banna in Egypt in 1928. Al Banna was a puritan who thought that Islam at his purest and most strict required jihad against infidels. Is this so, the “purity” of Islam is coessential with jihad?

Yes, certainly because Islam considers Mohammed’s example to be paramount. The Quran says, chapter 33 verse 21, that Mohammed is the excellent example for believers, which is interpreted by Islamic scholars in an absolute sense, that if Mohammed did it it’s good and right and Muslims should do it as well. And so, as Mohammed waged jihad, the Quran counsels jihad. This is central, you cannot have Islam without jihad. There has never been Islam without jihad.

This is a question I have recently asked to renowned European scholar Bat Ye’or. We keep hearing that Islam has been a very important source during the Middle Ages for the coming into being of Western civilization, but basically all the contributions of Islam to the West in that period did not have specific Muslim roots. Do you agree?

Islam is the only religion in the world nowadays with a public relations arm, a concerned effort on the part of believers in order that nobody thinks bad about Islam and everybody thinks that Islam is a positive force. There is no other religion that works so hard in trying to make a good impression and no other religion needs to work so hard to make a good impression. Islamic apologists constantly explain to us that Islam is a religion of peace, they have to explain it because it’s not obvious, because Muslims are doing violence in the name of Islam every day. There are constantly Islamic apologists also telling us that Islam has been responsible for wonderful achievements. This also is not obvious. Every Islamic state and majority Muslim country in the world is a backwater and a human rights abuser and certainly not a place that no one will think of as a center of cultural learning. We are constantly told these deceptive lies that are designed to make us complacent in the face of the massive Muslim immigration to the West. When it came to the matter of Islam’s achievements and inventions we are told that the Jewish and Christian dhimmi captives of the Islamic state of Caliphate Baghdad, the Abbasid Caliphate, a thousand years ago, that their translations of the classical Greek texts or their inventions in terms of medicine or other innovations, that those are all due to Islam. These people weren’t even Muslims, they were just living in the Islamic state. What we are facing is a concerned effort to make Westerners believe that the mass of Muslim immigration into Western countries is something they mustn’t be concerned about, because presumably there will be a new flowering of an Islamic Golden Age, and there will be inventions, and there will be learning, and there will be tolerance and peace. It is all nonsense. There never was in the past and there will not be now. It is all part of this public relations effort.

For Islamic theology, Islam is the primeval religion of humanity. This means that every other religion and specifically the two religions of the Book, Judaism and Christianity are defective, full of errors and falsehoods. Only Islam is correct. However we often hear that Judaism, Christianity and Islam can get along together. Do you believe this is possible?

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Above video published on November 11, 2011 by the VoicesUnited (UCI YouTube channel – Joel Richardson, Frank Gaffney, Wafa Sultan and Zuhdi Jasser all despise Shariah Law and its effect. And if you value the liberties secured by freedom’s domain, you should too.

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