The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (And the Crusades)
by Robert Spencer
Washington, D.C., Regnery Publishing, 2005. 270 pp. $19.95, paper.
Reviewed by Steven Stalinsky
Middle East Media Research Institute
Middle East Quarterly
Spencer's book covers a lot of ground with a study of Muhammad, his early battles, the development of the Qur'an, the spread of Islam, and Islam's early wars, culminating in the Crusades.
Introduced as "an examination of certain highly tendentious assertions about Islam and the Crusades that have entered popular discourse" it aims "to move … a bit closer to the truth" of what is known about these subjects. In this sense, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam lives up to its title.
In providing readers an exposé of Islam that "won't be taught in school" or "heard on the evening news," Spencer paints the religion in a broadly negative light. The view that "Islam is a religion of peace that has been hijacked by a tiny minority of extremists" is, he writes, "the mother of all PC myths about Islam"; Spencer quotes a number of Western historical figures critical of Islam, including Alexis de Tocqueville, John Quincy Adams, and Winston Churchill, to back up his opinion.
With chapter titles such as "Muhammad: Prophet of War" and "Islam—Spread by the Sword? You Bet," readers will find content that is especially timely, given such incidents as the publishing in Denmark of cartoons of Muhammad and then Pope Benedict's speech with quotes calling Muhammad's teachings "evil" and "spread by the sword."
The book ends with a chapter titled, "The Crusade We Must Fight Today," in which Spencer warns that the West fails to recognize that jihad has been declared against it. He offers "a few modest proposals," excluding the role Muslim reformists/moderates must play for he worries that their theological foundations are weak. Still, the war on terror can finally be won only if allies within the Muslim world are supported; these reformists and moderates can create an environment in which it is possible to challenge the ideology of hate that fuels the very jihad that Spencer identifies.
Related Topics: History, Islam | Fall 2007 MEQ
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