Book Review: Crucified Again
Raymond Ibrahim’s new book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians, is an essential text — not merely for its thorough and deliberate documentation on the phenomenon of Islamic persecution against Christians from one end of the Muslim world to the other, but primarily for its contribution to our overall understanding of the challenge facing us from Islam. What I mean by this is that Mr. Ibrahim not only collects and collates data, and delivers it in a readable form. But far more importantly, he presents the historical record of Islam’s interaction with Christian communities in such a manner as to give us a corrective to the faulty understanding of Islam many have formed as the result of an historic aberration in recent times.
Here you will find clear definitions of classic Islamic doctrines of jihad, the dhimma contract, the Conditions of Omar, and more. Crucified Again serves very well as a primer for someone wanting to get up to speed on the threat of Radical Islam. But it is much more than an introductory book.
The book’s title is a subtle hook. For many, the eruption of Islamic violence against Christians the last couple of decades, and increasingly these last several years, indeed seems like a new war of Islam against Christians. Even the mainstream media is dropping its guard at times, and occasionally reporting (however haltingly) on the undeniable Muslim attacks against Christians. However, the idea that this might be a resumption of a very old war is literally unthinkable to many, whose knowledge of Islamic history is usually rather limited.
The accumulation of evidence presented by Raymond Ibrahim offers ominous proof that Muslim extremists are relentlessly persecuting Christians, from Morocco in northwest Africa to Nigeria in the Sub-Sahara; from the headline-grabbing church burnings, rapes, murders and forced conversions in Egypt, the Sinai and Syria, through Pakistan and Afghanistan; and from exotic locales like Malaysia and Thailand to the Philippines and Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country. Literally everywhere in the Islamic world, Christians are under mounting pressure and worsening conditions. Safety and coexistence are a thing of the past.
But did a “coexistent past” between Muslims and Christians ever really exist? This important question is also at the crux of Ibrahim’s presentation.
In fact, there was, for about a century or so, a quasi-peaceful period between Christians and Muslims. Mr. Ibrahim calls this the “Christian Golden Age,” but as he convincingly proves, this quasi-peace was due not to any inherent tolerant strain within Islam itself, but rather to the incontestable dominance (both military and economic) of the Western European “Great Powers” (which also included Tsarist Russia) beginning about 1850, which interrupted centuries of Islamic supremacist tradition. This “Christian Golden Age” was also by no means universal; anti-Christian pogroms and persecutions continued, yet were not as widespread or frequent.
As I have written about also on my blog, the European Great Powers severely constrained the reach and ambitions of the Ottoman Empire, which justly became known as the “Sick Old Man of Europe” as the 19th century advanced. Indeed, it was largely due to Russian intervention that the Serbs and Bulgarians won their independence in the latter half of the 19th century. The Armenians might have had their own nation-state also, had not the British intervened at the end of the Russo-Turkish War. But even without universal independence for all the Christian peoples under rule of the Ottoman Caliphate, the lot of Christians improved greatly due to European pressure on the Turks.
Nineteenth century European strength and self-assuredness also led to a reassessment by Muslims of their traditional cultural and political values. The appeal of the ascendant West, with its prosperity, scientific and medical advancements, and educational opportunities, inspired respect by Muslims and ushered in a secular era in the Islamic world, which largely eclipsed traditional Islam. Thus a dramatic westernization took place within the Islamic world. As Ibrahim notes, “many Muslims emulated Western ways, naturally sloughing off their Islamic identity and mentality and [their] contempt for ‘infidels’.”
Many effects were specific and dramatic. In 1856, under pressure from the Great Powers, the Ottoman Empire instituted reforms reversing 1200 years of Islamic law, recognizing non-Muslims as equal to Muslims, and granting freedom of religion. Many of the Christian churches today in the Islamic world were built following these reforms, and by the mid-20th century, Christians were generally viewed as equal citizens throughout the Middle East.
However, this “Christian Golden Age” has had an unexpected effect over the last few decades. Because our cultural memory stretches back only so far, many in the West are inclined to believe that the relative Muslim-Christian coexistence as seen from 1850-1950 is the norm, that it has always been thus. So most Westerners struggle with understanding the root causes of contemporary Muslim-on-Christian violence, without being able to consider Islam itself as the primary force. As Mr. Ibrahim writes, “They fail to comprehend that the Golden Age was the historical aberration—an exception to the rule, not the rule.”
Mr. Ibrahim offers an equally rigorous historical analysis of Islam’s dramatic and violent turn away from Western values. There are many lessons for the United States and Europe packed into this aspect of his study, which concentrates on Muslim rejection of the cultural and sexual revolution of the 1960s. Ironically, the “hyper-criticism” of the West by its own leftist intellectuals also helped turn the Muslim world against the United States and Europe, to where the 1970s saw the tipping point of Islam’s anti-Western shift, capped by the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.
As Muslims have turned back to traditional Islam, Ibrahim continues, they have re-embraced more and more aspects of Islamic life, including the Sharia, and, as we are seeing in epidemic form, increased persecution of Christians:
The myopic West cannot comprehend that Muslims have gone back to treating Christians in the exact same ways Muslims treated Christians before Muslims began to emulate the West. That history is all but lost.
Raymond Ibrahim warns that the “cognitive dissonance between what the multiculturalists in the West believe about Islam, and what is reported as actually taking place in the Muslim world, is so great that many Westerners simply cannot take in the facts.” The net result is a systemic blind spot in Western analysis of Islamic motives, purpose, strategy and ultimate goals, which has crippled Western foreign policy in response to Islamic terrorism and the supremacist push of the “Arab Spring” revolutions.
None is so blind as he who will not see, and we have a great deal of work to do to open the eyes of America’s ruling classes, most of whom have been steeped in the leftist, multiculti worldview all their lives. But there is no denying any longer the facts, now reported even on the nightly news. As Mr. Ibrahim summarizes his historical section:
The persecution of Christian minorities in Muslim nations is among the most visible aspects of resurgent Islam. Nowhere does Islam behave like Islam as it does at home—where it is in power and not in need of pretense. Today, as the Islamic world reclaims its identity, Christians are further demonized as the “main transmitters of Western and modern attitudes.” And the work of eradicating them, which was begun some 1,400 years ago, is now on its way to fulfillment.
Towards the end of his book Raymond Ibrahim takes his gloves off, and lays into the compromised elements of academia, the mainstream media and Western government leaders. Fluent in Arabic, he is just the one for the job, as it is Ibrahim himself who has brought to the West many of the stories about Muslim persecution of Christians in the Islamic world, which would have never seen the light if day had he not been monitoring and translating into English reports from Arabic news sources.
Elsewhere, Mr. Ibrahim excoriates slanted reporting in the West, which seems always intent on glossing over Muslim persecution of Christians, or portraying Muslims in the best possible light, often by referring to one-sided attacks on defenseless Christians by armed Muslim mobs as “sectarian clashes” and the like, as if there were two evenly matched groups of equally guilty miscreants. After countless examples of such biased reporting, Ibrahim concludes,
Christian persecution is perhaps the most obvious example of a phenomenon the mainstream media wants to ignore out of existence—Islamic supremacism… If the mainstream media were to report honestly on the persecution of Christians under Islam, the obvious implications that Islam is dangerously hostile to all non-Muslims would be inescapable. Hence, journalists develop an instinct—or make a deliberate choice—to ignore or minimize these uncomfortable facts. No wonder so many Americans, including most self-professed Christians, are either totally unaware of the phenomenon or have no idea of its extent or significance.
This is precisely why, of all books on Islam, Raymond Ibrahim’s new work Crucified Again is indispensable. The lessons contained within it are many, and it will bear repeated readings, as well as serving as an essential resource text. Exhaustive documentary of Muslim persecution of Christians, corrective historical analysis, antidote to the poison of a false multicultural narrative perpetuated by academia, the media and government—this is Raymond Ibrahim’s herculean contribution to the global challenge of an emboldened Islam. Although Mr. Ibrahim humbly states, “the facts speak for themselves,” it is his patient and engaging exposition and presentation of those facts and what they mean which shines light on one of the most urgent topics of our day.
Islamic supremacism is back, in a very big way, and Raymond Ibrahim is at the forefront of Western scholarship in opening our eyes and minds to the crisis now hammering away at our front door.
Ralph Sidway is author of Facing Islam: What the Ancient Church has to say about the Religion of Muhammad. He operates the Facing Islam blog.