Book Review: Islam Unveiled

Category: Americas, Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society Topics: Islam Channel: Opinion Views: 11313

Robert Spencer's Islam Unveiled is one of numerous works which have emerged during the past quarter century, taking a carefully calculated aim at what they rightfully claim to be, the world's fastest growing faith. However, unlike the emotionally charged and poorly researched works of several pseudo scholars of Islam and the Middle East like Robert Morey's The Islamic Invasion and Daniel Pipes' Militant Islam Reaches America, Spencer's book is eloquently written, judiciously edited, and tactfully presented. Nonetheless, while Daniel Ali, founder of the Christian-Islamic Forum Inc., considers the book to be the "first successful attempt at revealing - (the evilness of) - Islam," it would be more appropriate to label it the first serious rather than successful attempt due to its flagrant and innumerable errors in its greater part.

While a book ought never be evaluated by its cover, Spencer's tabloidal choice to publish close-up facial portraits of a mean-looking Muhammad Atta (one of the believed masterminds of the 9/11 attack), along with the picture of an attractive-looking young woman with mesmerizing Arab eyes yet wearing the hijab, is an open invitation for people to form a negative image of and condemn the Islamic faith altogether. This prelude sets the stage for the rest of the play: Islam, the religion of hate and violence par excellence, promotes terrorism and suppresses human rights. His claim is further solidified by a forward of Arab-abhorrer, pro-Zionist and senior editor of the conservative National Review, David Pryce-Jones, along with a back-cover feedback by renowned Islam-basher, Dr. Anis Shorrosh.

The entire book revolves around one basic premise: the evil actions, unethical practices, intolerant behavior and promiscuous conduct that Muslims commit and believe in, are not the works of a few zealots falsely claiming to adhere to Islam. Instead, they are inspired and ordained by unquestionably legitimate Islamic sources, abundantly found in the Qur'an, the authentic Hadith collections, and the writings of mainstream Muslim scholars across the centuries. Hence, while Spencer states that his book is about Islam and not Christianity or the West, he never hesitates to frequently remind his reader that it would be inaccurate to compare Muslims' mischievous actions to those committed by their Christian and Western counterparts. He argues that unlike Islam, evil actions committed by people claiming to adhere to the Christian faith and democracy, such as the Crusaders' massacres of the innocents and the Ku Klux Klan discriminatory practice, cannot find any basis in the teachings of the Bible. Additionally, he contends that, in the event when Biblical verses do incite their follower to aggression, such as in Psalm 137:9: "Happy shall be he who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rocks" (p.23) (see also Psalm 101:8, I Samuel 18:7, Leviticus 24:20 and Joshua), they are usually extracted from the Old Testament; yet the civilized Western World which follows the "New Testament corrective of the gospel of mercy" (p.34), as depicted in Matthew 5:38-39 and 5:44 along with Jesus Christ's dovish teachings, cannot religiously justify any violent or immoral behavior.

Spencer attempts to substantiate his assertion through a prologue and ten relevantly-chosen chapters dealing with the most-asked questions in the contemporary Islam versus Christianity, and West versus Middle East dialogues: What does Islam really stand for; Is Islam a religion of peace; Does Islam promote and safeguard sound moral values; Does Islam respect human rights; Does Islam respect women; Is Islam compatible with liberal democracy; Can Islam be secularized and made compatible with the Western pluralistic framework; Can science and culture flourish under Islam; The Crusades: Christians and Muslims; Is Islam tolerant of non-Muslims, and Does the West really have nothing to fear from Islam?

In his misleading approach for thoroughness and cohesiveness, the author, especially in the first few chapters, discredits Islam by following a tactic of discourse. Instead of outright attacking Islam, he describes apparently condemnable events in Islamic history and beliefs, then, briefly presents parallel examples of how the West and/or Christianity committed similar mistakes. However, he concludes that, while the latter performed them in full violation of Christian and Western values, the Muslims accomplished them in full compliance and even observance of Islamic teachings. 

Spencer's articulate style and meticulous editing camouflages his argument's weaknesses and flaws, swaying the novice reader to believe that what is presented is factually correct when the majority of his arguments are flatly incorrect, misleading, out of context, or at best, incomplete. For example, (on page 1,) he states "Most Americans got their first taste of contemporary Islamic terrorism at the Munich Olympics of 1972, when Muslim terrorists murdered Israeli athletes" (p.1). Blaming this actual incident on Muslims is outlandish and bizarre. Never in the history of documenting this event has any side (Israeli, Palestinian, German, or anyone around the world) ever pinpointed the blame on Muslims. The group that executed the attack was known as Black September, which was directly or indirectly linked to Fatah, one of the most secular organizations among all the Palestinian institutions, which even includes numerous Christians. By making such an assertion in 2002, thirty years after the attack, the author deliberately lied, was grossly misinformed, or has uncovered secret documents that Israel's sophisticated intelligence has not yet encountered.

While the Olympics incident is easily documented and swiftly refuted by any person familiar with the basic history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Spencer presents numerous arguments in a carefully deceptive style, disguising them for the English-only apprentice reader to trace, understand within their proper context and rebut. For instance, he subtly integrates three Qur'anic verses that permitted Muslims to kill pagans ("When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield, strike off their heads and when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly" (Surah 47, verse 4), (see also Surah 9, verse 5 and Surah 2:190-191) (p.20) with a verse related to combating People of the Book: "Fight against such of those to whom the Scripture were given as they believe neither in God nor the Last Day ..." (Surah 9 verse 29). While he correctly informs the reader that the first set of verses applied only to idolaters, he totally fails to report the context and circumstances that led Muslims to retaliate against the pagans, i.e., the latter had breached pacts, conspired against, attacked and harmed the Muslims first.

When Spencer does not rely on lies, misinformation, and out-of-context citations, he uses other deceptive techniques by selecting less popular interpretations of specific events that suit his critical agenda of Islam although alternative and more authoritative accounts of the same events differ with his selected account. A case in study would be his account of the circumstances behind the first few verses of Surah 66 (Surah at-Tahreem) in which God reprimands the prophet Mohammad for prohibiting something upon himself which God had made lawful. Spencer chooses the more sensual Hadith reported by Tirmidhi that the prophet Muhammad promised to avoid Mary the Coptic after his wife Hafsa became angry with him for having been with Mary at Hafsa's house. He fails to - or chooses not to- relate the stronger narration of Bukhari with a totally different account in which the prophet had pledged no longer to eat honey (instead of not seeing Mary) in order to please his two wives who, out of jealousy, had conspired against him and complained about the prophet's foul-smelling mouth created by his consumption of honey. 

These and literally hundreds of other fallacious, misleading, out-of-context and half-truth examples are not haphazardly chosen. Instead, from the start of his book until its end, they are carefully and abundantly implanted, drawing from a variety of sources, including classical, contemporary, religious, social, political, international and regional sources related to Islam. This strategy accomplishes a very important objective: Exposing hundreds of shallowly discussed cases about the evilness of Islam forces the reader to conclude that, even if some of the examples are potentially debatable and refutable, there is still an overwhelming volume of arguments to condemn the faith and its followers. Since the book targets the mainstream, mono-lingual, mostly novice or single-subject-expertise audience, it becomes difficult to discredit the author, unless a multi-disciplinary-and-linguistically-trained reader refutes him by documenting authoritative sources and revealing the author's true flimsiness. 

The book's main merit lies in its ability to address a wide variety of controversial topics that are of interest and relevance to the inquisitive Western public. It is relatively well written and edited, yet serves as a good primer only for wannabe scholars of Islam. Its biggest failure does not only lie in what the author presents, but instead, about what he deliberately chooses to omit, which, had it been exposed adequately, would totally discredit his own premise and conclusions. This is mostly caused by the fact that he relies on haphazard events and statements that Muslims had done throughout history to prove his point, instead of digging deeply into the roots, circumstances and causes of certain actions. One feels confident to make this assertion against the author because he did have access to and often quoted -though selectively- some primary Islamic sources.

The other weakness in the book is the author's microscopic knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of socio-political, economic, and cultural factors that affect any human behavior irrelevant of one's faith. Blaming Muslims only for certain universally shared behaviors is rather simplistic. Oppression, economic exploitation, injustice, and cultural heritage, among many other factors, all impact a society's development, its worldview and reactions to events. In addition, his deification of Western culture, politics and value systems reflect his considerable ignorance of the West's own political history, which did in the past and still supports today, some of the most violent, cruel and brutal behavior that world civilizations have ever experienced, not only threatening the Muslim and developing worlds, but also, the entire humanity, including the West's own existence. Adapting the words of renowned author Phyllis Bennis' assessment of the American public's knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we can safely state Mr. Robert Spencer knows quite a lot about Islam. However, what he knows is completely incomplete.

  Category: Americas, Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society
  Topics: Islam  Channel: Opinion
Views: 11313

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Older Comments:
The author forgets to report the attrocities commited by Churches - picking up events out of contest seems to be his style - Arab muslims are less than 15% of the entire population, yet he only bases his book on conflicts with Arabs - If Islam is evil why is it the fastest growing religion in the West? - In your article you have said the author has done his homework, probably to disuade the would be muslims by attacking the religion.

YES, I agree with the writer of this article.
i have read so many books about Islam and all say
is Islam is the religion of sword,promoting violent,some even call Quran devil book.
this kind of prapaganda must be stopped, i am so sick and tired of seeing these books in bookstores.

This is surprising to say that the acts committed by christians were not inspired by the Bible but rather by the old testament. Now when Jesus says i have not come to destroy the old laws but to complete them, does he exclude the old testament?


Exactly,this is what is happening today.False propaganda,forged facts to suit ulterior motives & baseless allegations,tailor-maid news against Islam and muslim community.We just need a fair ground,and a decent platform to express ourself.STOP EXPECTING US TO BE INVISIBLE.

Please - we all know there are people who are so bigoted and ignorant that they write this kind of trash. This would be a far better article if the author would suggest books and/or authors who have written about Islam with intelligence and understanding. Karen Armstrong is a good example, her book "A History of God", dealing with the development of the three Monotheistic religions - Judaisim, Christianity and Islam is great. Her book on the life of Muhammad was wonderful, and her latest, " The Battle for God - a History of Fundamentalism" is a must read for Christians, Muslims and Jews. Peace to you all!

Ho hum, yet another anti-Islamic screed, nothing surpising really, such propaganda had been around for the last 1000 years.. Keep it up warmongers, crusaders, your efforts will be naught.
Only a total degenerate would appreciate such material, but when one happens to be a member of failed and backward "civilization" as Spencer such behavior is be expected. Edward Said's classic "Orientalism" is all thats needed to understand western "scholarship" on Islam.

How I see it? It's a means of propaganda having a not so hidden agenda: to disqualify Islam. There is a passage in the Quran, I do not remember where and my translation could be very inacurate, but in principle it states:'there should be no argument/judgement on the way of Islam from the people of the Bible on our differences,because enough a witness between them and the Muslims is God' In other words, the message of God is unfailing, people tampered with it, misinterpreted it or falsely preached it to serve other purposes than the welfare of mankind. Does not the Quran say that, 'the people of the Book/Bible have enough evidence in their scriptures to make fair judgements and follow the Way(Submission to God).' I reflect on the fact that every human being is born a Muslim(submitted to the will of God). If you followed their behaviour, you notice that they know what is right and what is wrong when they commit it! But we are humans and somebody said, "to be human is to choose" Regardless of what religion is or teaches, humans choose and their choices sometimes have nothing to do with faith or religion. They choose to another end, could be political, economical, social, or simply a dishonest purpose. What motivates more an individual than his religion and faith in God? Take that trust & love in God and bend it to your scope in the most subtle way that in the end even you yourself believe it was true, and you got yourself a bunch of fanatics that would do anything to serve God, even though they don't know what, but they trust you with it because you were smart enough to deceive in plausible ways. Not everything that makes sense is right. It made sense to bring free working slaves from Africa to build America, was it right? This is one tool used, "makes sense, must be right" I believe that if we sterilize any religion of the human selfish intent we have a really close approach to understanding one another in the light of God. Peace to all!

I started reading "Islam Unveiled" on Sunday and I'm half way through it. I'm finding it interesting reading. To me it shows how Islam must be interpreted in context to the time, place and situation it was revealed.

There is a serious problem with deviants in the community; exploding suicidal killers and grotesque slaughter by jihadi murderers proclaiming 'God is Greatest'. God surely is, but does God approve of their actions? These Moslems whole heartedly believe they are doing God's work, they take selective sentences from the Holy Islamic texts and string them together to form a totally Unholy religion. Worse still are the ones who preach it to the nave and innocent.

Beautiful the Qur'an sounds in ancient Arabic, however what is the use if the language and meaning is not understood? I know many fellow Muslims who read the Koran in Arabic and don't have a clue what they are saying. Some of these will point to Jihadi literature and say 'this is way', I say 'understand Islam'.

Peace to All

(Mohammed Aslam, Thanks for your reading recommendation of the "The Road to Makkah" by M Asad, I've just ordered it and look forward to a good read.)

Those whose hearts are sealed, cannot but see ugliness where there is beauty and falsehood where there is truth. There have always been detractors and vilifiers of our beloved Messenger(pbuh), as there have been enemies of all our honoured prophet's from Noah, to Abraham, to Moses and Jesus (salutations be up on them all), they all came with the same message, that of submission to the one God. Those who conduct themselves in such a manner as these literate, eloquent Islamophobes, only harm themselves, for there reckoning is with the Almighty. The history of the diverse Islamicpeoples and it's many manifestations are enough to show the maleability of its message and its ultimate truth. So, let's not get worked up about the works of such people, but let us continue to return that which is evil with that which is better. Let us continue to bring the message of the Quran to those whose hearts are open and to continue to improve ourselves so that we may serve our Creator and fulfill the purpose of our creation.

It is amazing to see the reality of those who claim peace. George bush and the rest of the "God Lovers" are evil. They are the vicious wolves roaming the fields. We all know that and instead of wasting peoples' time reading "what this" and "what that" says about Islam, please put more articles to educate Muslims and Non-Muslims alike about Islam. Who cares about pipes or shoros. These people are coco and do not deserve the attention they are getting. Let them pass unnoticed.

Never mind. It has been that way along the history, even the musrikin in Makkah velified the prophet. People have brain and let them use their brain

These attacks are so numerous and frequent the Muslims should come up with words to use a shorthand for the various types of false logic used. This would felicitate their discussion and study. Once they are well classified and categorized, the attacks and their rebuttals can be taught to the children to allow them to deal with the proprietors of these attacks quickly and decisively.

One of the least well taught concepts in western schools is how to quickly identify and deal with the falsehoods the whisperers of evil promote. This is a great weakness in the west.

As the author of book correctly points out, what the leadership in the west promote as "christian values" is in diametric opposition to the teachings of Jesus. But then so is the theology. If the citizens of the west were better trained in identifying falsehoods and thinking critically for themselves they would not follow either the political or theological leadership. And if you don't want your children to do so, teach them how not to be mislead by these people.

Which reminds me. A few weeks back I announced that it had come to my attention that the question of delisting that group had come up. I have been informed that due to the strength of the antithesis movement initiated after the question was communicated, coupled with the weakness in the population's ability to resist being misled that "spiritual services" has requested and been granted permission to delist.