From the response to the 9/11 attacks to the confronting of ISIS, Americans and other Western leaders regularly refer to Islam as a “religion of peace,” but a new book contends the 1,400 years of Islam is a timeline awash in bloodshed and conflict.
Jihad Watch Director Robert Spencer is author of the new book “The History of Jihad: From Muhammad to ISIS.” He says there is a consistent pattern of carnage since the earliest days.
“What I found is that through 14 centuries, without any break, without any let-up, without any reformation or reconsideration, without any period of tolerance – although there are a lot of historical myths about that – Islam has been responsible for conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims for 14 uninterrupted centuries,” said Spencer, who is quick to point out that most Muslims are not jihadists.
“Obviously, not all Muslims are involved in this and not all of them approved of it. Nonetheless, in every century and in in every place in the world where there have been Muslims, there have been jihadis who thought that it was one of their responsibilities before Allah to wage war against and subjugate unbelievers,” said Spencer.
Islam was founded in A.D. 622, Muhammad died in 632, and by 732, at the Battle of Tours in modern-day France, Charles Martel led a decisive Frankish victory against Muslim invaders who had already swept through North Africa and Spain.
But how did those invaders get from the Arabian Peninsula to the Atlantic coast within 100 years? Spencer says it was accomplished through violent conquest, and he contends most people who deny the violence perpetrated in the early years of Islam are arguing from a position of ignorance.
“People aren’t really aware of this history. This is one of the reasons why I wrote this book. The Islamic advance was incredibly swift. And not only did they get all the way to the Atlantic and to Spain within 100 years of the death of Muhammad, but they also went in the other direction, conquered one of the great powers of the day in Persia and went into India,” said Spencer.
Spencer says his book is the first work in the English language to detail the jihad against India, which he calls “an extraordinary and bloody story.”
In addition to those who don’t know the history, Spencer says others believe a false version of history.
“I think a lot of people take for granted the idea that there was some kind of mass conversion to Islam, that people were converting to it because they were convinced that it was true and that this is what was responsible for the Islamization of the Middle East and North Africa. That’s actually not the case. It was all done by conquest,” he said.
Spencer further asserts that ISIS is not the exception or some radical departure from Islam over the centuries. He claims ISIS looks much like jihadists throughout the past 14 centuries.
“I show in the book there are movements like that all through Islamic history. Many of them were responsible for the conquest of Spain and its 700-year occupation by Islamic forces. Many of them have also been responsible for jihad warfare elsewhere. There was nothing new that ISIS did, nothing different. It was exactly the same in its beliefs as jihadis throughout history,” said Spencer.
Jihadists also played a key role in the first major military engagement of the United States when President Thomas Jefferson was forced to confront the Barbary Pirates off the coast of North Africa.
“They were jihadis, as I show in the book. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams wrote a report to Congress about how the Moroccan ambassador had explained that they were fighting them because it was explained in the Quran and they felt they had a divine responsibility to do so,” said Spencer.
That conflict is also how U.S. Marines became known as “leathernecks.”
“They’re leathernecks because they wore leather collars that would prevent them from being beheaded. The (Marine Corps) song with the ‘shores of Tripoli’ was all about them facing the jihadis,” said Spencer.
In multiple speeches, President Obama stated Muslims have been a vital fabric of the United States from our very beginning. Spencer says other than being our first opponent in war, Obama’s assertions do not hold up.
“In terms that Obama’s claim that Muslims were in the United States and were involved in it since the founding; that’s complete historical fiction and has no basis in fact whatsoever,” said Spencer.
Today, Spencer believes the U.S. and other Western nations make a habit of whitewashing the ugly history of jihadism.
“The West in general has had a drastically wrongheaded response to this threat and that’s primarily been characterized by simple denial. They just proclaim that Islam is a religion of peace and leave it at that. The most notorious example of that is George W. Bush right after 9/11,” said Spencer.
But if jihad is historical Islam, why do most Muslims not engage in it?
“Jihad is risky. You can get killed. You can get maimed. You can have all sorts of disasters happen to you. That takes a certain amount of courage. Not everybody is going to do it. Also, there are people simply not religious enough to care,” said Spencer, noting others work to advance Islam more surreptitiously.
“There are also people waiting and biding their time, working in other ways. The Muslim Brotherhood and other groups of its kind are working to achieve the same ends as jihad terrorists, which is Islamic (Shariah) law ruling the world but through different means: through elections, through civilizational change and so on,” said Spencer.
And while a majority of Muslims do not engage in jihad and many do not even condone it, Spencer says they could do much more to condemn it. He says those who do speak out against jihadists like ISIS get a tepid following at best.
“A few years back when ISIS was in it’s heyday, every now and again we’d see Muslims against ISIS rallies. Invariably, they only attracted about 25-50 Muslims. Whereas, rallies against cartoons of Mohammed drew 800,000 people in Chechnya, hundreds of thousands in Pakistan and Iran,” said Spencer.
Spencer says the first step in the solution is to call out jihadists for what they are.
“The first thing we need to do is to speak honestly about this problem, call upon Muslim groups in the West to renounce the aspects of Islam, including jihad warfare, that are at variance with the constitutional principles of the United States and, in general, the principles of Western free nations,” said Spencer.
He says the U.S. and its Western allies must take a stand because the past 14 centuries show that the problem won’t go away on its own.
“Everywhere there have been large numbers of Muslims, there has been conflict. Here again, it’s not all Muslims or every Muslim, but there are always some among the Muslims who believe they need to wage jihad against unbelievers. Why do we think we’re going to be exempt from this and that it’s not going to happen to us?” said Spencer. “It is.”