Of Egyptian Coptic parents and fluent in Arabic, Raymond Ibrahim is among those scholars and commentators who, like Robert Spencer and David Horowitz, is not afraid of calling a spade a spade. In this times of ours poisoned by politically correctness it comes like a breath of fresh air.
He will not talk of Islam as “the religion of peace” pretending that it is something that it never was. On the contrary, he will emphasize that contemporary jihadists just follow a strict application of the Koran, much alike the Protestant Reformers with their concept of sola scriptura (scripture by itself). The main difference is that the latter usually do not make themselves explode, or behead “infidels” or are committed to a permanent strife with the West to subjugate it.
The reason for this is that in the Koran, jihad is prescriptive and Mohammed, the perfect example for every Muslim, was a prophet but also a warlord.
A regular contributor to the David Horowitz Freedom Center and previously associate director of The Middle East Forum, Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians and editor of the seminal The Al Qaeda Reader: The Essential Texts of Osama Bin Laden’s Terrorist Organization.
He has kindly accepted to answer our questions.
The first issue I would like to address is the widespread notion that ISIS is the facto a product of the U.S.A intervention in Iraq. The implication is very clear. If the U.S.A wouldn’t have invaded Iraq there would be no ISIS around. How would you comment on this?
Ibrahim: Facts are facts. Before the US invaded, Saddam Hussein was renowned for suppressing Islamist movements. Indeed, one of the reasons for his later human rights abusing reputation was that he was brutally stomping out the jihadis, a label Western media regular omit when talking about secular Arab dictators using brutal means, such as Assad and his efforts against jihadis. A decade after Saddam was ousted, killed, and the U.S. proclaimed victory for having brought “freedom and democracy” to Iraq, all we have to show is the emergence of ISIS, which, when it comes to human rights abuses, makes Saddam look like Santa Claus.
I usually look to the situation of Christian minorities in Muslim countries to understand the nature of those who rule. Under Saddam, they and their churches were protected; the year America brought “freedom and democracy” to Iraq, Christians were savagely persecuted and dozens of their churches bombed. Incidentally, it’s not just in Iraq that American intervention gave rise to ISIS. Libya and Syria are also part of ISIS’ caliphate, again, thanks to the U.S. paving the way by ousting Gaddafi and trying to oust Assad. I don’t claim to know the reason behind this phenomenon, but the facts speak for themselves: where the U.S. ousts secular Arab strongmen—whose human rights abuses were often in the context of fighting even worse human rights abusing jihadis—ISIS follows.
Anti-Americanism is still strong among the left both in Europe and in the States. The likes of people like Noam Chomsky have spread the notion that the U.S.A is evil incarnate together with Israel viewed as its proxy in the Middle East. Which are the main factors, according to you, behind this attitude?
Ibrahim: Ultimately, I believe these views are based less on objective facts and more on subjective distortions of history. The mainstream view today is that, at least historically, white, Christian men are the source of all evil on planet earth; therefore, the least they can do by way of reparations is to be passive while the Muslim and other third worlds experience their growing pangs—which manifest themselves as atrocities against non-Muslims, including Westerners. So whenever the US or Israel do anything for their interest and security that would be deemed absolutely normal and standard for other, especially non-Western nations, the left cries foul, racism, etc.
The apologists of Islam tells us that Islam is very much part of the West as it helped shaping our culture with its innovations when it was still an empire. Here in Italy a renowned historian, Franco Cardini, recently said that “Islam is at the base of modernity”. What is your personal view?
Ibrahim: This view is just another example of how the true history of Islam and Europe has been so thoroughly distorted and warped in a way to glorify Islam and humble formerly Christian Europe. Reality and history—as recorded by Islam’s most renowned historians—has a very different tale to tell, one that was known by the average European child but which is now “taboo” to acknowledge: war—or jihad—on Europe is the true history of Islam and the West. Consider some facts for a moment: A mere decade after the birth of Islam in the 7th century, the jihad burst out of Arabia. Two-thirds of what was then Christendom was permanently conquered and much of its population put to the sword and/or pressured to convert, so that almost no one today realizes that Syria, Egypt, and all of North Africa were once the centers of Christianity. Then it was Europe’s turn. Among other nations and territories that were attacked and/or came under Muslim domination are, to give them their modern names in no particular order,: Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Sicily, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Lithuania, Romania, Albania, Serbia, Armenia, Georgia, Crete, Cyprus, Croatia, etc.
In 846 Rome was sacked and the Vatican defiled by Muslim Arab raiders; some 600 years later, in 1453, Christendom’s other great basilica, Holy Wisdom (or Hagia Sophia) was conquered by Muslim Turks, permanently. The few European regions that escaped direct Islamic occupation due to their northwest remoteness include Great Britain, Scandinavia, and Germany. That, of course, does not mean that they were not attacked by Islam. Indeed, in the furthest northwest of Europe, in Iceland, Christians used to pray that God save them from the “terror of the Turk.” As late as 1627 Muslim corsairs raided the Christian island seizing four hundred captives, selling them in the slave markets of Algiers. Nor did America escape. A few years after the formation of the United States, in 1800, American trading ships in the Mediterranean were plundered and their sailors enslaved by Muslim corsairs. The ambassador of Tripoli explained to Thomas Jefferson that it was a Muslim’s “right and duty to make war upon them [non-Muslims] wherever they could be found, and to enslave as many as they could take as prisoners.” In short, for roughly one millennium—punctuated by a Crusader-rebuttal that the modern West is obsessed with demonizing—Islam daily posed an existential threat to Christian Europe and by extension Western civilization. In this context, what use is there in highlighting aberrations? Even that one peripheral exception that so many Western academics tried to make the rule—Islamic Spain—has recently been debunked as a fraud in Darío Fernández-Morera’s The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise.
Islam presents itself as the true and definitive religion of humanity. Judaism and Christianity in the Islamic view are seen as deeply defective and corrupted. As a matter of fact for Islam, the Muslim prophet Jesus will come on Judgement Day to destroy all the crosses and expose the falsehood of Christianity itself.Notwithstanding this, the Pope keeps calling Islam a religion of peace and presents it only in a very favorable light. According to you it is just political prudence or something else?
Ibrahim: This pope sees himself as a diplomat and politician, not a spiritual leader, and certainly not as a defender of Christians. More’s the pity since of all Europeans, historically it was the Catholic popes who most understood the dangers of Islam—physical and spiritual—especially to fellow Christians. Yet he staunchly refuses to associate Islam with violence. Even when a journalist asked him if the recently slaughtered 85-year-old French priest Fr. Jacques was “killed in the name of Islam,” Francis adamantly disagreed; he argued that he hears of Christians committing violence every day in Italy: “this one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law… and these are baptized Catholics! There are violent Catholics! If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence.” Apparently for Pope Francis, violence done in accordance with Allah’s commandments is no more troubling than violence done in contradiction of the Judeo-Christian God’s commandments.
By this perverse logic, if we hold Islam accountable, so must we hold Christianity accountable—regardless of the fact that Islam does justify violence while Christianity condemns it. And when he met with the grieving relatives and survivors of France’s Bastille Day attack—another Islamic attack that claimed the lives of 86 and injured hundreds—he told them: “We need to start a sincere dialogue and have fraternal relations between everybody, especially those who believe in a sole God who is merciful,” a reference to monotheistic Muslims. He added that this was “an urgent priority…. We can only respond to the Devil’s attacks with God’s works which are forgiveness, love and respect for the other, even if they are different.” This is certainly a different approach than that of his courageous namesake. Its also futile vis-a-vis Islam and will only be taken advantage of. How does one have “fraternal relations” with adherents of a religion that calls on them to hate all non-Muslims, including family members and wives? Even Koran 60:4 calls on Muslims to have “eternal hate” for all non-Muslims.
Do you think that there is any chance that Islam can accommodate with Western values, and if this is possible on what grounds?
Ibrahim: For Islam to accommodate Western values it would first have to cease being Islam. Countless forms of behavior that directly contradict Western values are called for in the Koran and/or hadith, and the ulema, are agreed to them: death to apostates and blasphemers, subjugation of Muslim women, sexual enslavement of non-Muslim women, polygamy, child-marriage, ban on and destruction of non-Muslim places of worship and scriptures, and enmity for non-Muslims—are all no less Islamic than are prayer and fasting.
Even Islamic State atrocities—such as triumphing over the mutilated corpses of “infidels” and smiling while posing with their decapitated heads—find support in the Koran and stories of the prophet. To fully appreciate how much of Islam directly contradicts Western values, consider the findings of one Arabic language article by Dr. Ahmed Ibrahim Khadr. It lists a number of things that mainstream Muslims support even though they directly contradict Western values. These include (unsurprisingly): demands for a caliphate that rules according to Sharia and expands into “infidel” territory through jihad; death for anyone vocally critical of Islam or Muhammad; persecution of Muslims who try to leave Islam; rejection of equality for Christians and Jews in a Muslim state; rejection of equality for women with men; and so forth (read entire article).
Anyone who understands how Islam is actually articulated knows that the assertion that it is “possible to be a Western liberal and mainstream Muslim,” as London’s Muslim mayor recently said, is a grotesque oxymoron. It’s akin to saying that it’s possible to fit a square peg through a round hole. It’s not—unless, of course, one forcefully hammers it through, breaking portions of the peg, that is to say, the Muslim and or cracking the surface of the hole, that is to say, Western society.
Islam is a political religious system from its inception. Would you subscribe to the notion that it is truly an ideology with a religious coating to it, or is there something really religious about it? I am thinking about Islamic mystics and the Sufis, for example.
Ibrahim: Ultimately it doesn’t matter: even if it has a religious coating to it, it is most certainly a political ideology, especially its early origins. This is simply clear looking at the life of its founder prophet Muhammad. When he was merely a powerless preacher in Mecca, he only had a very small following; when he went to Medina and became a warlord and caravan bandit—and when his followers started to grow rich from plunder—his ranks began to swell.
Many are the worldly rewards, incentives, and privileges—to say nothing of the “worldly” rewards (sex with supernatural women) in the hereafter— that come with being Muslim: if you fight for the empowerment of Islam against non-Muslims and you can lie, cheat, kill, steal, enslave and rape. Countless are the Muslims, past and present, who joined the Islamic bandwagon precisely for these prerogatives. That said, I do believe that some Muslims try to turn Islam into a more spiritual thing for their own sake. But that doesn’t change the fact that others use it for its original purpose of conquest and plunder
One of the most repeated statements about Islamic terrorism is that it is the product of various groups of fanatics. Most Muslims are moderates and will never go around beheading people or having themselves exploded. Is this evidence conclusive?
Ibrahim: Yes and no. It may be true that many Muslims would not want to behead people or detonate themselves, but that is because they are not committed to or interested in Islam beyond the bare basics of survival. However, it is wrong to think that “Islamic terrorism is … the product of various groups of fanatics.” Terrorism is actually the product of the Koran and example of the prophet—the two things all Muslims are enjoined to follow. And so long as these two pillars of Islam stand, so will they have adherents, even if a majority of nominal Muslims—who dare not apostatize due to Islam’s death penalty—do not literally follow them.
Islam has been deeply divided in itself from the death of Muhammad in 632. It seems that warfare and strife are inbreed in the Muslim world. Do you agree?
Ibrahim: Yes. Perhaps the most defining aspect of Islam is the search for absolute power—power over all others whether they be infidels, women, the wrong kinds of Muslims, ad infinitum. Accordingly, and despite some of its injunctions against for example killing fellow Muslims, Muslims have been and continue to slaughter each other, in the name of Islam.
Can we say that Wahhabism is at the core of Islamic contemporary jihadism, or is this a reductionist point of view?
Ibrahim: We can say this, but it would be much more accurate to say a literal reading of Islam’s core texts “is at the core of Islamic contemporary jihadism.” After all, that is what “Wahhabism” is all about. Incidentally, no Wahhabi calls or sees himself as a Wahhabi-—a word often used in the West to distance Islam from violence and intolerance—and see themselves simply as Muslims who literally pattern their lives after the teachings of Mohammed and Koran.
What is your opinion about the longtime alliance between the U.S.A and Saudi Arabia, which is among the strictest Wahhabi states. Does realpolitik justifies everything?
Ibrahim: I think it is a sickening and disgraceful alliance that turns everything that the US stands for into a joke. Nor is realpolitik the root source. After all, the US and the entire free world could easily put Saudi Arabia on its knees and force it to reform or else. Its oil could be seized—and actually should, since, with that revenue, Saudi Arabia spends 100 billion annually to radicalize Muslims around the world, such as their brainchild, ISIS. Saudi Arabian knowledge of all this is one of the main reasons it gives many millions to Western politicians and others, who in exchange stand before Western people and speak of Saudi Arabia as a “ staunch ally,” whose help in “fighting terrorism” is “indispensable”.