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1,400 years of Islamic Imperialism and Colonialism: The Forbidden History


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Aug 27, 2005
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September 9, 2005
A Review of The Legacy of Jihad. Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims edited by Andrew G. Bostom.
Bruce Thornton
Private Papers

Four years after 9/11 the postmortem of that disaster continues to focus on the institutional failures of our intelligence agencies and government bureaucracies. Yet the larger intellectual and cultural corruption that in part made possible many of those misjudgments and mistakes does not receive the public attention it deserves. The politicizing of the academy, for example, that accelerated in the sixties had compromised the study of Islam and the Middle East long before Islamic terrorism appeared on our cultural radar. Because of this ideological distortion, centuries of consensus about the aggressive, intolerant, and expansionist nature of Islam –– an agreement reflecting both the facts of the historical record and the words themselves of the Koran and Muslim theologians and jurists –– were discarded in the service of an anti-Western political and ideological agenda.

In this politicized narrative, the West is the arch-villain of history, and its primal sins of colonialism and imperialism are the engines of oppression responsible for all the world’s ills. With regard to Islam and the Middle East, the West’s scholars are accused of creating “orientalism,” a collection of degrading myths and stereotypes that masqueraded as scholarship and provided the intellectual grease for the wheels and gears of colonial and imperial exploitation. With some few notable exceptions, the myth of orientalism has corrupted many of the scholars studying Islam in American and European universities. The result has been a reduction of history to a melodrama in which a noble, tolerant, cultured Islamic world had been unjustly attacked by an intolerant, greedy West addled by Christian bigotry and racist stereotypes of blood-thirsty jihadist warriors. All the problems in the Middle East today, in this Orwellian rewriting of history, thus derive not from anything dysfunctional in Islam or Arab regimes but rather in the sins of the West and its Middle Eastern minion, Israel.

Among the brave scholars who have worked to correct these distortions –– Bernard Lewis, Martin Kramer, Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer, Bat Ye’or, Ibn Warraq, to name just a few––Dr. Andrew G. Bostom has recently been one of the most tireless. In his columns at American Thinker, Dr. Bostom has exposed the politicized interpretations, half-truths, and outright lies that our enemies and their Western enablers have used to obscure the truth about the struggle we are in. Now Dr. Bostom has compiled an invaluable collection of primary documents and scholarly commentary concerning jihad. This compendium shows that Islamic jihad has for fourteen centuries meant exactly what bin Laden, Zaraqawi, and every other so-called “Islamic fundamentalist” says it means: a war to compel the whole world to embrace Islam, die, or live under intolerant, humiliating restrictions designed to force the unbeliever every day to acknowledge his own inferiority and the superiority of his Islamic overlords.

Given the ideological and political corruption of the academy mentioned above, it’s not surprising that a physician has stepped up and played the role of the child who announces that the academic emperor is strutting down the street buck-naked. From Sir Thomas Browne in the 17th century to Raymond Tallis today, there is a long tradition of medical doctors examining and exposing the follies of academics and scholars. After all, unlike the inhabitants of the ivory tower –– who rarely have to be accountable for their ideas and so have the luxury of abstract speculation no matter how fantastic or dangerous –– doctors are grounded in the very real world of suffering and sickness, where concrete evidence and practical application have value, and where accountability is literally a life and death matter. And that is the important point about the issue of Islam’s true nature: understanding it is not rocket science. One has only to read the historical record, read the words of the Koran and the hadiths (sayings attributed to the Prophet), and read the centuries of interpretations in Muslim theology and jurisprudence, to know that today’s jihadists have not “highjacked” or “distorted” Islam but are simply traditionalists, squarely in line with Islam’s historical identity.

The Legacy of Jihad is organized precisely to show that continuity. Bostom starts with some examples of the sort of propaganda that has made his book necessary in the first place. For example, Georgetown professor John Esposito has called the five centuries before the Crusades an era of “peaceful coexistence” between Islam and Christendom, one ruined by the European greed and power-hunger that drove the Crusades. So much, as Bostom quotes Bat Ye’or, for the “’pillage, enslavement, deportation, massacres, and so on’” that accompanied the Islamic rampage throughout the Mediterranean, the Near East, and southern Asia. Or listen to UCLA law professor Khaled Abou El Fadl saying “’Islamic tradition does not have a notion of holy war. Jihad simply means to strive hard or struggle in pursuit of a just cause.’” Bostom exposes such sophistries simply by quoting Islamic scholars like Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406): “’In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the [Muslim] mission and [the obligation to] convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.’” Or listen to Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328): “’Since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God’s entirely and God’s word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought.”

Read the rest at: http://victorhanson.com/articles/thornton090905.html

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