The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has this week waged a campaign against National Review, seeking an apology and the removal of a book called The Life and Religion of Mohammed from sale by the NR Book Service. This was a bit out of focus, since National Review did not publish the book and is not the sole source for it. In fact, I wrote this ad, although I receive absolutely no remuneration from the sales of the book by NR or anyone else. CAIR’s campaign was revealing of what CAIR wants Americans to know — and not to know — about Islam and Muhammad. And CAIR did succeed in intimidating NR into withdrawing the book, along with Serge Trifkovic’s Sword of the Prophet.
In a press release, CAIR called the book “virulently Islamophobic,” and quoted sections from advertising copy for book that called it a “guide into the dark mind of (the Prophet) Mohammed.” It took issue with the ad copy’s description of the book as explaining “why Mohammed couldn’t possibly be a true prophet, and reveal[ing] the true sources of his ‘revelations.” Above all, CAIR was angered by the ad copy’s assertions that “Mohammed posed as the apostle of God...while his life is marked by innumerable marriages; and great licentiousness, deeds of rapine, warfare, conquests, unmerciful butcheries, all the time invoking God’s holy name to sanction his evil deeds,” and that “Mohammed again and again justified his rapine and licentiousness with new ‘divine revelations.’”
CAIR’s Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper fumed that “this anti-Muslim screed is the literary equivalent of ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ and should not be promoted by a publication that has any sense of decency. The National Review must clarify its position on Islamophobic hate speech and offer a public apology for promoting a book that so viciously attacks the faith of one-fifth of the world’s population.” He added, according to the CAIR press release, that “anti-Muslim rhetoric often leads to discrimination and even violence.”
In fact, however, The Life and Religion of Mohammed is not “anti-Muslim hate literature.” It was written over eighty years ago by Fr. J. L. Menezes, a Roman Catholic priest who was a missionary in India. I have read it, and there is nothing inflammatory or inciteful in it; in fact, it is suffused with a pastoral love for Muslims.
The author, as a Christian priest, obviously did not accept Muhammad’s claim to be a prophet. If it is Islamophobic hate literature for a book to explain “why Mohammed couldn’t possibly be a true prophet,” then the Christian Faith itself is Islamophobic and hateful. (And that, of course, is precisely the view that prevails among all too many today in Pakistan, where many Christians have been victimized under the nation’s blasphemy laws after being confronted by Muslims and refusing to acknowledge Muhammad as a prophet.)
Also, as this press release itself reflects, The Life and Religion of Mohammed doesn’t say anything false about Muhammad. It is true that “Mohammed posed as the apostle of God...while his life is marked by innumerable marriages; and great licentiousness, deeds of rapine, warfare, conquests, unmerciful butcheries, all the time invoking God’s holy name to sanction his evil deeds.” Aside from the judgment that all this is “evil,” what in that is CAIR actually denying? That Muhammad claimed to be the apostle of Allah? No, I’m sure Hooper and Co. would affirm that. That he was married more than once? Universally acknowledged by Muslims. That his career was marked by “great licentiousness, deeds of rapine, warfare, conquests, unmerciful butcheries”? Let’s take each of those in turn.
“Great licentiousness”: Again, these are judgmental words, but the judgment is not unreasonable or unfounded. Just one of many possible examples comes from the Qur’an, in which Allah allows Muhammad to have more wives than are allowed to other Muslims: “a privilege for thee only, not for the (rest of) believers...” (Qur’an 33:50).
“Deeds of rapine”: Yet again this is not an unreasonable judgment. The Qur’an assumes that Muslims will be waging war and forcibly seizing others’ property, and so far from forbidding this, only insists that the Prophet get a share: “And know that whatever ye take as spoils of war, lo! a fifth thereof is for Allah, and for the messenger and for the kinsman (who hath need) and orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, if ye believe in Allah and that which We revealed unto Our slave on the Day of Discrimination, the day when the two armies met” (Qur’an 8:41).
“Warfare”: Muhammad fought in many battles and enjoined warfare on his followers: “Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not” (Qur’an 2:216).
Muhammad, of course, started almost all the battles in which he fought. A sampling: “Ibn Shihab reported that Allah’s Messenger made an expedition to Tabuk and he (the Holy Prophet) had in his mind (the idea of threatening the) Christians of Arabia in Syria and those of Rome” (Sahih Muslim, book 37, no. 6670).
“Conquests”: Did Muhammad not conquer? “And that Our forces, they surely must conquer” (Qur’an 37:173). He won followers through his conquests. One contemporary of the Prophet explained: “The Arabs (other than Quraish) delayed their conversion to Islam till the Conquest of Mecca. They used to say: ‘Leave him (i.e. Muhammad) and his people Quraish: if he overpowers them then he is a true Prophet. So, when Mecca was conquered, then every tribe rushed to embrace Islam, and my father hurried to embrace Islam before the other members of my tribe” (Sahih Bukhari, vol. 5, book 59, no. 595).
“Unmerciful butcheries”: Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad’s earliest biographer (and a pious Muslim) recounts the massacre of the Jewish Banu Qurayzah: “The apostle went out to the market of Medina (which is still its market today) and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for [the men of Banu Qurayza] and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches....There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900.” (Ibn Ishaq’s Sira, 689).
CAIR may differ with Fr. Menezes’s assessment of this material, but it can’t very well deny its existence. Muslim apologists try to justify Muhammad’s marriages, battles, and killings in various ways, but it would be the height of chutzpah to deny they took place at all. Would CAIR, in contrast, paint for us a picture of Muhammad the Rotarian?
“Hooper said anti-Muslim rhetoric often leads to discrimination and even violence.”
Fr. Menezes calls for no violence. Everything he says about Muhammad is, as I have shown, easily established from Islamic sources. What this charge does is attempt to divert attention from the real violence committed by jihadists today to a chimera of violence against Muslims in America, and thereby silence criticism of Islam and, in particular, investigations of the sources of Islamic terror in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
But what about when the jihadists themselves quote the same passages to justify their behavior? Surely they aren’t “Islamophobic” too, are they? Of course they aren’t — and if non-Muslims can’t look into Islamic sources to investigate the causes of jihad violence, it plays into their hands: the less Americans know about how they recruit and motivate terrorists, the less we can do about it.
“This anti-Muslim screed is the literary equivalent of ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.’” No, it isn’t. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a malicious work of fiction. But the Islamic sources I have cited are not fiction. Is CAIR ready to say that all that (and much more that could be adduced) is false? Of course not. They would say (except that they won’t have to, because they won’t be called to account) that it is all taken out of context. Yet no one has ever satisfactorily explained in what context this all becomes benign.
Now that CAIR has succeeded in intimidating NR into silence and getting them to drop this book, it will be a victory for those who don’t want Americans to know the uncomfortable details about Muhammad that are in the book. Unfortunately, however, jihad terrorists around the world today know these elements of the life of Muhammad quite well, and are imitating them. Ignorance of them on the part of Americans will only make us more vulnerable.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch; author of Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (Regnery), and Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter); and editor of the essay collection The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: Islamic Law and Non-Muslims (Prometheus). He is working on a new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades (forthcoming from Regnery).