Earlier this month Washington Times editorial writer Brett M. Decker, a former editorial writer and editor for the Asian Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong, interviewed Robert Spencer for HUMAN EVENTS. Spencer is the author of Onward Muslim Soldiers (published by Regnery, a sister company of HUMAN EVENTS) and Islam Unveiled (Encounter) about the nature of Islamic radicalism and the threat that jihadists pose to America and the West. BRETT M. DECKER: The networks give a lot of airtime to “experts” who say that al Qaeda’s beliefs are not representative of Muslims as a whole. Obviously all adherents to a religion cannot be categorized together, but don’t many of the terrorists’ radical beliefs hold sway in mainstream mosques? ROBERT SPENCER: They certainly do. In Onward Muslim Soldiers, I quote liberally from Saudi preachers who represent the same radical Wahhabi brand of Islam that bankrolls at least 300 of the mosques in the United States. It has been abundantly documented that with Wahhabi money comes pressure to teach the Wahhabi perspective. The American Sgt. Hasan Akbar, who [allegedly] killed several American soldiers in Iraq earlier this year, attended a mosque in Los Angeles that was bankrolled by the Wahhabis. He could have learned the principles of jihad there. BMD: It doesn’t seem that moderate Muslims and major Islamic groups in America have tripped over themselves to criticize their jihadist brothers without reservation. Am I completely mistaken? RS: No, you sure aren’t. Take the Islamic Society of North America’s convention in Chicago last week. It was full of claims that Muslims in America are being scapegoated, and calls to punish Bush at the ballot box for the Patriot Act, but nothing about how to eradicate terrorism from American Islam. Nihad Awad of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has recently gone so far as to say that “courage is needed in the Muslim world to stand up and declare that acts of political violence are completely antithetical to the teachings of Islam.” However, as yet CAIR has not undertaken any initiative to counter the radicals by teaching that perspective in a thoroughgoing way in American mosques. And two former CAIR officials have been arrested on suspicion of aiding terrorists in the last year. So it seems that there is a profound ambivalence about radical Islam even among the supposed leading exponents of moderate Islam in this country. BMD: Western leaders are trying hard to find a way to fight radical Islam while insisting we are not in a religious war. The jihadists obviously look at the situation differently. What are the ideological elements of jihad? RS: Jihadists around the world are using Islamic law to call foreign soldiers into Iraq. They’re invoking the provision of the Sharia (Islamic law) that stipulates that jihad becomes personally obligatory upon Muslims when a non-Muslim force invades a Muslim country. To these men, who have come from all over the world and whom American soldiers have identified as among the most tenacious warriors in Iraq, this is very much a religious war. America is seen as the enemy of Islam that has attacked a Muslim nation. BMD: The European Union has decided not to refer to the continent’s Christian past in its constitution in the works. This could be because Europeans and their old religion are dying out. What exactly do demographics suggest about Europe’s future, and Islam’s place in it? RS: Islam is now the second-largest religion in France. There are about four million Muslims there—about 7% of the nation’s total population. The Muslim population in Germany is approaching 4%; in Holland it’s close to 5%. There are also about a million Muslims in Italy and half a million in Spain. These populations are already significant presences in those countries, and all are growing much more rapidly than the majority populations, such that France and other countries could have Muslim majorities by mid-century. This puts a new perspective on Europe’s reluctance to aid the U.S. against Saddam’s Iraq. BMD: It sounds as if Muslims are taking over Europe. Could this be seen to fulfill Muhammad’s original plans of conquest? RS: Muslim armies, in what they saw as obedience to Muhammad’s teachings and commands, pressed into Europe more or less steadily from the 8th century to the 17th. There is no indication that the theological underpinnings of jihad that inspired these military endeavors were ever modified or discarded; they just became impossible to fulfill because of the economic and political decline of the Muslim world. But now the situation has changed, and new opportunities have opened up. BMD: How is Islam faring in the rest of the world? Asia? The Americas? RS: There are radical movements across Asia, chiefly in Indonesia and the Philippines. As for the Americas, there seems to be a network of jihadists along the border between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Meanwhile, Islam is growing rapidly everywhere. Some recent surveys have disputed the subtitle of my 2002 book Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith, saying that Christianity is actually growing faster. But even if that is true, Islam is growing very rapidly around the world. BMD: I read recently that there has been an explosion of conversions to Islam in America’s prisons, and that the attraction is to radical forms of the religion. Is this a serious problem? RS: Yes, it is. Radical Wahhabis have trained many prison chaplains, and radical America-hating Islam is being taught to prisoners all over the country. It was a prison chaplain and American convert to Islam, Warith Deen Umar, who asserted early in 2003 that “even Muslims who say they are against terrorism secretly admire and applaud” the 9/11 terrorists. An untold number of American Muslims in prison are being taught to admire and applaud them as well. BMD: Recently, it has become very politically incorrect to mention the Crusades in anything but a negative light. The early Islamic armies seem to get away with a free pass while Crusaders are held responsible for a litany of excesses. Is history getting rewritten? Weren’t the Crusades originally a defense against Muslim abuses and attacks? RS: Yes. Utterly forgotten is the fact that the Crusades were a delayed and inadequate answer to what at the time of the First Crusade had been over 450 years of Muslim imperialism, in which the ancient Christian lands of the Middle East and North Africa were overwhelmed by Muslim conquerors. The Crusaders committed abuses, but the abuses were by no means all on one side, and those (and there are many) who claim that the Crusades were the beginning of Christian-Muslim hostility are ignoring centuries of jihad that preceded them. BMD: A lot of Catholics were shocked by an infamous incident when Pope John Paul II kissed the Koran. Do you think runaway ecumenism undermines the West’s ability to combat jihad? RS: Yes. To speak honestly about Islamic radicalism is to be tarred as “racist” and “bigoted.” Overlooked is the fact that my books Onward Muslim Soldiers and Islam Unveiled simply quote Muslim sources. If there is bigotry, it is in those sources. It is misguided and foolhardy to remain blind to the aims of those who are determined to destroy us in the name of a false “tolerance.” BMD : It is incredible to consider the speedy revival of Islam. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Muslim world—especially the Arab world—was completely dejected. How can the religion’s resurgence be explained? Are the radical elements fueling this growth? RS: They sure are. The success of Khomeini’s Iranian revolution emboldened Muslim radicals around the globe. Meanwhile, the infusion of oil billions into the region has helped revive it economically, at least to some degree. BMD: Is the civilized world taking the jihadist threat seriously enough? RS: No. People must realize that the conflict we are engaged in is not ultimately about Israel, or oil, or American power, or the occupation of Iraq. It began before those things existed, and it will continue until jihad ideology is decisively rejected by Muslims worldwide. But that event is not even on the horizon, and until it is, human rights and human dignity will be threatened by jihadists on a global scale.
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