David Thompson


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May 21, 2008



Interesting the contrast between the treatment of the words "crusade" and "jihad".

"Crusade" has been used in the west for centuries to signify movements not remotely connected with foreign conquest. Yet we have self consciencely banned it from common usage lest it offend Muslims or give the wrong idea. No Muslim is asked to understand the the wider uses of the word. It is deemed to mean violent war against Muslims.

No Muslim in the middle east is asked to understand "crusade" in such a anodyne way as we are asked to understand jihad.


It’s odd how the Crusades are referred to freely, and critiqued in great detail, while the preceding four centuries of jihad campaigns – to which the First Crusade was a belated and partial response – are much less discussed.


It would be interesting to read a history of the Jihads which established the original Caliphate and compare those campaigns with the Crusades which followed. What the West doesn't want to remember is that Islam spread itself primarily through conquest. The religion is one for a warrior people beset by oppressors. Its deity seems a capricious tyrant. It is archaic in the same way the Old Testament is today. Jehovah commanding the Israelites to go into Palestine and slaughter the inhabitants sounds awfully similar to Allah commanding the Muslims to go and subdue the infidels in Arabia.

The Israelites were not a peaceful people, and in fact were fierce mercenaries and warriors for much of their history. Islam seems to have followed their example, but unfortunately for them and for the world they were not contained and their religion is far more prone to proselytizing. The problems the West faces with coming to grips with Islam is that it is an anachronism incompatible with more secular and humanist values.



Andrew Bostom’s “The Legacy of Jihad” is a detailed account of the major jihad campaigns. Well worth reading. As is Robert Spencer’s “Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades”.


Peter Risdon

I discussed this with Ismaeel from the Muslim Action Committee here, last year:


I don't think anything there contradicts your post, to be mild about it.



“By saying that the problem with the Islamic world is that it isn’t sufficiently Islamic, you’re saying that the problem with a dead horse is that it isn't sufficiently dead.”

Goodness. I’m shocked. Shocked and amused.


An April 2005 article, by Jihad Watch contributor Hugh Fitzgerald, in the New English Review describes her scholarship as a theologian, and as a historian of religion, in these terms: "For Karen Armstrong history does not exist. It is putty in the hands of the person who writes about history. You use it to make a point, to do good as you see it.", and ..."she knows nothing about Islam (which doesn’t keep her from writing about it, endlessly)..."

Peter Risdon

David, not that this stopped my friend Ismaeel from flogging it.


David, thank you for the links.


I’m a big-hearted guy.

Time for some deep-fried blues. http://fp.ignatz.plus.com/along.mp3


On behalf of Herb, here's a link to the Hugh Fitzgerald article he quotes:




My favourite lines:

“And whatever you need to twist or omit is justified by the purity of your intentions – and Karen Armstrong always has the purest of intentions. She knows that we in the ‘white Western world’... fail to understand others. She knows of our deep need to create ‘the Other’ – a psychic need felt exclusively, and with great intensity, apparently, only by us, and never by anyone else.”

And, of course, this:

“Karen Armstrong is not innocent, and manages to do a great deal of harm, careless or premeditated harm, to history. Too many people read that she has written a few books, and assume, on the basis of nothing, that ‘she must know what she is talking about’ – and some of the nonsense sticks. And perhaps an enraged professor or two bothers to dismiss her, but mostly – this is how the vast public, in debased democracies, learns its history today.”

The last point is far from trivial. When Armstrong’s second absurd article appeared in the Guardian – again unchallenged - I called the deputy comment editor, Joseph Harker, and pointed out that Armstrong’s polemic was grossly misleading and factually indefensible. Mr Harker – he of the claim “all white people are racist” - didn’t attempt to defend any of Armstrong’s assertions, but declined offers of correction, even on points of basic fact. The fact that what is being published is grotesquely inaccurate and logically absurd doesn’t appear to be an issue. What matters, it seems, is peddling memes.



"Some Muslims believe that Muhammad regarded the inner struggle for faith a greater Jihad than even fighting [by force] in the way of God, and quote the famous but controversial hadith which has the prophet saying: "We have returned from the lesser jihad (battle) to the greater jihad (jihad of the soul)." In modern times, Pakistani scholar and professor Fazlur Rahman has used the term to describe the struggle to establish "just moral-social order", while President Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia has used it to describe the struggle for economic development in Tunisia."



The “Greater Jihad” – supposedly the interior aspect of a Muslim’s struggle (i.e., with failings, temptations, etc) – is, so far as I can make out, ultimately based on a single hadith that is widely regarded as “weak” – i.e., of suspect provenance. And there are numerous, detailed expositions, like the one below (republished in the Pakistan Daily), insisting on a coercive, supremacist definition as primary – the aim being to “cleanse the earth [of] unbelief” with the dominion of Islam as a religious and political system.


Again, my point isn’t to define what jihad *has* to mean, or ought to mean, now or in the future. I’m merely pointing out that, at present, proponents of supremacist jihad appear to have the stronger and more pervasive *theological* argument. It’s not just the violent connotation that concerns, but the broader assumption of an imperative to advance Islam’s dominance – including by “soft” means such as funding, political effort, etc. This supremacist assumption appears, for example, in Saudi, Pakistani, Jordanian and Egyptian school textbooks:

“One Egyptian textbook, Studies in Theology: Traditions and Morals, Grade II (2001), cites Muhammad and reminds children of their duty to ‘perform jihad in Allah’s cause, to behead the infidels, take them prisoner, break their power and make their souls humble…’ (pp 291-22). Young readers are also reminded that ‘the concept of jihad is interpreted in the Egyptian school curriculum almost exclusively as a military endeavour… It is war against Allah’s enemies, i.e., the infidels’. Another cheering gem, Commentary on the Surahs of Muhammad, Al-Fath, Al-Hujurat and Qaf, Grade II (2002), warns youngsters against being ‘seized by compassion’ towards unbelievers.”


See also here:


If moderates and reformers wish to shift the balance in favour of a more benign formulation, it seems they need to address these supremacist arguments head-on and make their case theologically and with reference to core Islamic sources, as opposed to pretending no such problem exists.

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