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The Truth About Muhammad by Robert Spencer
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Islam is Intolerant – But So is The Old Testament
“But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.”
The passage quoted above represents a more overt call for genocide than anything in contained within the pages of Mein Kampf. Yet it comes, neither from Mein Kampf, nor from the Quran or Islamic aḥādīth. It comes from the Hebrew Bible (Deuteronomy 20: 16-17).

The next book of the Bible, describes Joshua fulfilling this command:
“He left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded” (Joshua 10:40).
Meanwhile, another biblical passage from another book of the Old Testament/Torah extends these sentiments to another ethnic group:
“Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (Samuel 1 15:3).
Let me then be clear: I am quite convinced, as Spencer ably demonstrates in ‘The Truth About Muhammad’, that the Quran, aḥādīth and Islamic law are indeed wholly incompatible with contemporary Western values.

This is indeed hardly surprising since these works were authored in a non-western culture some thousand years ago.

However, I am unconvinced that the Old Testament is frankly any better – again unsurprisingly since it was written, again in the Middle East, long even before the Quran.

True, the New Testament of the Christian Bible is rather more pacifist in tone. So perhaps Christianity may have a claim for qualifying as a ‘Religion of Peace’ – at least if you regard parts of the Old Testament as overruled or repealed by the New Testament.

However, the same is not true of Judaism.

Indeed, the Old Testament always strikes me as something akin to a racially-supremacist tract. The Jews, it repeatedly tells us, are God’s ‘Chosen People’ and everyone else is, at best, a second-class species of human.

Yet these verses have not prevented Jews and Christians, many of them devoutly religious, some even self-described ‘Biblical literalists’, from living together peaceably without significant numbers among them feeling the need to regularly suicide-bomb one another or fly planes into buildings, or, for that matter, massacre Hittites, Canaanites and Jebusites.

However, there is clearly a difficulty in integrating Muslims into Western society, as various terrorist atrocities committed by citizens born and raised within the borders of western liberal democracies amply yet horribly demonstrate.

The problem is not simply that Muslims have, in general, not fully reconciled themselves with such ‘progressive’ notions as feminism and transsexual bathroom rights. After all, the same is true of many Christians, Jews and heathen secularists like myself.

Rather the problem is that significant minorities of Muslims within the West engage in terrorism against the West.

True, terrorists represent only a small minority of the Muslim population. However, they are not so small a minority as to be unable to wreak considerable havoc.

Of course, historically, Christians and Jews have had their own share of holy wars and religious bigotry, both against themselves, one another and outsiders. There were the Crusades, the burning of heretics, blasphemers and witches, countless wars justified in the name of God, plus the persecution of Protestants by Catholics, of Catholics by Protestants, of Jews by both Catholics and Protestants and of Palestinians (the descendants of the biblical Canaanites) by Jews, not to mention that whole nasty business with the Holocaust.

In short, liberal democracy and religious toleration came relatively recently even to the West.

Moreover, it is surely no coincidence that increasingly liberal attitudes, laws and governments have arisen hand-in-hand with the process of secularization.

In short, liberal democracy and Western civilisation have come about despite Christianity rather than because of it.

Yet, nowadays Catholics, Protestants and Jews resident in the West, together with various assorted secular heathens like myself, all live together in relative toleration.

This holds out the prospect that, in the long-term, Muslims might learn to do likewise.

However, it is unlikely to be a rapid transition, and nor is it necessarily an inevitable one. Therefore, we have every reason to be cautious about admitting more Muslims into our countries as migrants or asylum seekers.

However, given that the holy books of both Christianity and Judaism contain passages that rival anything in the Quran or aḥādīth when it comes to draconian bellicosity, I contend that the reason for the current unassimilability of Muslim minorities in the West must be sought in factors external to the content of the Islamic scripture itself.

One factor is that Muslims came rather late to Western modernity. Whereas the ancestors of contemporary Ashkenazim and Sephardim settled in Europe centuries ago, and have therefore, like Christians, been an integral (and, indeed, a disproportionately influential, and disproportionately secular and liberal) part of the secular, liberal West for at least as long as the West has had any claim to being secular and liberal, the presence of Muslim immigrants in Western polities is, to my knowledge, largely a recent phenomenon.

Women as Booty
Spencer condemns “the treatment of women as war prizes, with no consideration of their will” as “from a twenty-first-century perspective… one of the most problematic aspects of Muhammad's status as ‘an excellent model of conduct'” (p133-4).

He likewise condemns the Quran for allowing Muslims to “have sex with slave girls (‘captives that your right hands possess’)” (p173).

There are three problems with this argument:

First, the practice is not restricted to Islam. Indeed, Spencer acknowledges, “this phenomenon has manifested itself to varying degrees in all cultures and societies” (p134).

However, he maintains “in the Islamic world [this practice] is particularly hard to eradicate because of the prophetic sanction it has received” (p134).

Despite his background in Christian theology, Spencer seems blissfully unaware that the Hebrew Bible give even more explicit sanction to the capture of women as ‘booty’ than does Islam.

Whereas Islamic teaching only gives implied “prophetic sanction” to forced concubinage by describing the Prophet as participating in such practices, the Christian/Hebrew Bible explicitly commands such behaviour.
“When the LORD thy God hath delivered [a city that has refused to surrender peacefully] into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword: But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee” (Deuteronomy 20: 13-14).
This phraseology, taken from the King James Version, seems to be an only mildly euphemistic incitement to mass rape. “The women and the little ones” along with “cattle” are explicitly equated with “the spoils”, and the Israelites are commanded to “take unto thyself; and… eat the spoil of thine enemies”.

Some prudish Christian apologists might affect to be blissfully unaware of what this passage alludes to, but I suspect all but the most naïve among them would be being disingenuous.

Or take this verse:
“Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man” (Numbers 31: 17-18).
Again, one does not have to be a cynic with a ‘dirty mind’ to guess for what purpose one is being commanded to “save for yourself” all these young virginal maidens, and I doubt it is purely because one wants help with the housework.

Who Gets Killed?
Yet, if female infidels were taken as booty, then male infidels defeated in war were typically killed outright.

Far from evidencing the oppression of women under Islam, therefore, the practice of taking captured women as spoils is actually an example of female privilege.

Indeed, this represents a classic case of what Adam Jones terms ‘Gendercide’.

Why then are we not talking about how both Christianity and Islam (and Judaism) discriminate against men?

Just as the biblical passages quoted above (Deuteronomy 20: 13-14; Numbers 31: 17-18) order massacres of all adult males, but the sparing of women and girls, so Islamic scripture is similarly ambivalent regarding the treatment of enemy females.

Spencer mentions an Islamic hadith that seemingly excuses the killing of females. Mohammad is quoted as excusing a massacre which included women and children among the victims by saying: “They are from them” – i.e. of the enemy group (Sahîh al-Bukhârî (3021) and Sahîh Muslim (1475): quoted at p87).

However, to my recollection, Spencer conveniently neglects to cite two other aḥādīth with a quite contrary message, namely Sahîh al-Bukhârî (3015) and Sahîh Muslim (1744).

Here, the killing of females is specifically condemned by Mohammed. The prophet is described as finding the body of a woman after a battle and reproving those responsible.

In short, Islamic law seems rather contradictory on the question of whether women can ever be killed in war. However, perhaps the two passages can be reconciled if female casualties are to be regarded as, to use two anachronistic contemporary terms, not ‘legitimate targets’ but rather excusable incidental ‘collateral damage’.

Again, this is reminiscent of the Old Testament, which contains similarly contradictory prescriptions regarding female captives.

Thus, in the passage which I quoted at the beginning of this review, deliberate massacres of entire cities, women and children included, is explicitly commanded (Deuteronomy 20;16-17).

However, elsewhere (Deuteronomy 20:12-14; Numbers 31:17-18), whereas Israelites are order to kill all adult males, they are advised to spare (or rather instead merely rape and enslave) certain classes of female captive.

Actually, Deuteronomy is not inconsistent; it is simply racist.

All non-Hebrews must be conquered, and all (non-surrendering) males of enemy groups must also be massacred. However, only among particularly objectionable ethnic groups (“these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance”: Deuteronomy 20:16) must the women and children also be massacred.

In contrast, Mohammad’s justification for the killing of women and children (“they are of them”) actually seems eminently practical, especially in this age of indiscriminate weaponry.

With bombs and missiles, civilian casualties are almost unavoidable. Yet to forsake the use of such weapons would be suicidal in a conflict with any enemy not willing to similarly handicap themselves.

Moreover, feminists ought presumably to welcome those Islamic aḥādīth (and biblical passages) which advocate the killing of women alongside their menfolk, since this is surely the logical conclusion (or perhaps the ‘reductio ad absurdum’) of what feminists have for so long so noisily and incessantly demanded – namely, the equal treatment of men and women.

Who Fights?
There is moreover another related form of sex discrimination implicit in so much Islamic teaching – namely, it is only males who are expected to sacrifice their lives in Holy Wars.

Spencer himself reports that, before a planned raid on Tabuk, a follower came to Mohammed asking to be excused. In response, “Muhammad granted him permission, but then received a revelation from Allah, counting people who made such requests among the Hypocrites” (p154: Qur'an 9:48-9).

Spencer reports:
“Allah even rebuked his prophet for excusing Muslims from the Tabuk expedition (Qur'an 9:43). He told Muhammad that true Muslims did not hesitate to wage jihad, even to the point of risking their property and their very lives. The ones who refused to do this weren't believers (Qur'an 9:44-45)” (p157).
However, it goes without saying that these injunctions applied only to men.

I am reminded of the build up to the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, when the media sought to justify the invasion by telling us incessantly how ‘oppressed’ women were in Afghanistan, because, apparently, they were forced to wear burkas.

Meanwhile, all able bodied men in Afghanistan were being forcibly drafted into the Taliban armed forces, including the elderly, some dragged from cars or their homes, and every household expected to provide at least one male to sacrifice in the coming war (Harding 2001).

Yet, strangely, no one said anything about men being oppressed in Afghanistan.

Likewise, one heard little about the widespread sexual abuse and sexual enslavement of young boys in Afghanistan, known as Bacha bāzī or ‘Dancing Boys’.

Instead, it was women, forced to wear Burkas, who were the only ones deemed to have been ‘oppressed’ – though I suspect it is the enforced veiling, seclusion and protections accorded women in Islamic societies that leads so many Afghan men to turn instead to young boys (‘bacha bereesh’, literally ‘boys without beards’) as an alternative sexual outlet.

Indeed, US troops serving in Afghanistan were specifically ordered not to interfere with the systematic sexual abuse of boys, on the grounds that “it is a part of their culture” (Goldstein 2015). Yet the wearing of burkas is also a part of Afghan culture and a surely less objectionable part of that culture than the sexual abuse of boys.

At any rate, the demand for women to wear burkas when in public was paralleled by the similar admonision that men go unshaven.

Yet both forms of sex discrimination are wholly trivial when compared to both the obligation to sacrifice oneself in war, and the sexual enslavement of boys.

In short, the idea that the right to wear high heels, short skirts, lipstick and sexually provocative clothing is a fundamental human right says more about the self-absorbed overprivileged lifestyles of western women than is does about real oppression.

Inheritance and Mahr
So are women oppressed under Islam as Spencer contends?

It is true that, under Islamic law, women are seen as possessions of their husbands, and commanded to be subservient and defer to them. However, in return, men were expected to provide for their wives.

Thus, Spencer rebukes the Quran for insisting that a son’s inheritance be twice that accorded one’s daughter (p273).

However, he neglects to mention a parallel form of discrimination against males which also represents an obvious rationale for the greater inheritance for males – namely that boys, if they wish to marry, will, not only be expected to both provide for their wife, but also must pay the Islamic bride price (‘Mahr’).

This Mahr is often extortionate and is payable directly to the bride herself, not to her family. Men in Iran are often imprisoned for failing to pay this sum on demand (see Mehraspand 2014).

Clearly it makes more sense to leave more money to your son than your daughter when your son is commanded by scripture to pay a bride-price should he wish to marry, and then expected to provide for his wife during marriage, whereas your daughter is likely to receive such a payment on marriage and thereafter be provided for by her husband.

Proving Rape
Even the supposed requirement for four male witnesses in order to convict a man of rape is a myth. This applies to other sexual offences (e.g. adultery), not rape

Indeed, even Spencer’s own account reveals that the requirement of four witnesses was actually introduced by Mohammed to protect women from allegations of adultery (p66-7: Quran 24:4, 24:6).

Given that infidelity typically occurred in secrecy, this made infidelity, in practice, impossible to prove – and any man who made such an allegation without the requisite four witnesses was himself punished by eighty lashes.

In contrast, women could evade punishment for adultery by claiming to have been raped, incentivizing false allegations.

Who Then is Oppressed?
Women are oppressed in traditional Islamic societies – but so are men. Islam is oppressive of all humans, male and female alike.

Indeed, oppression is virtually the defining principle of Islam, the very word ‘Islam’ famously translating as ‘submission’, which is defined by the OED as “The action of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person”.

Again, however, much the same is true of Christianity and Judaism. In both religions, adherents are expected to worship, obey, prostrate themselves in the presence of and sing songs in praise of, and sometimes even offer sacrifices to, or sacrifice themselves for, an allegedly almighty God.

This is, of course, directly analogous to how a subject under totalitarianism or despotism is expected to bow down before, obey and pay homage to an absolutist monarch or dictator.

‘Heil Hitler’ and ‘Praise be the Lord God’ are essentially analogous forms of salutation.

So all Judeo-Christian religions are oppressive. However, when men and boys are expressly singled out for massacre in holy scripture, while women and girls are spared, and when men are expected to fight and die in holy wars, if not martyr themselves with suicide bombs, for the glory of Allah, while women happily sit at home, perhaps wearing a burka, then there is no doubt whatsoever which sex is getting the better deal.

Harding L (2001) Taliban forcing thousands into army, Guardian, 4 October
Mehraspand A (2014) Indentured servitude for men in Iran: The myth of patriarchal oppressive divorce, A Voice For Men.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
October 28, 2018 – Shelved

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