Wafa Sultan is a Syrian woman who unleashes her anger at Islam in A God Who Hates: The Courageous Woman Who Inflamed the Muslim World Speaks Out Against the Evils of Islam (New York: St. Martin’s Press, c. 2009). She attained notoriety for bravely speaking her mind on the Al Jazeera TV network in a series that was quickly cancelled because of the wrath it elicited from viewers. She then determined to put her positions in print, knowing that her life would be endangered, because she believes “that good will ultimately triumph over evil” (p. 7).
The book’s message is simply stated by Sultan as she answers Americans who ask, following the 9/11 attacks, “Why do they hate us?” She answers: “Because Muslims hate their women, and any group who hate their women can’t love anyone else.” And Muslims hate their women, she believes, “Because their God does” (p. 7). From her perspective, Islam retains the ancient fears and angers of the desert dwellers who brought it into being and spread it throughout the world. Out of their needs Muslims created a God—Allah—“this ogre, and then allowed it to create them” (p. 52). And they have never ceased their ancient ways of fighting, raiding, despoiling the enemies. Since coming to America nearly 20 years ago Sultan has learned of “a different God than the one I knew in my village” (p. 9), though that discovery has not drawn her to belief in any Divine Being. Religions, for her, are projections of human fears, needs and desires; they may be good or bad, but they open no paths to any truly transcendental Reality.
Sultan tells the story of her childhood, growing up in an oppressive male-dominated world that significantly changed when “the tentacles of the Saudi octopus [radical Islam funded by petrodollars] began to extend gradually into Syrian public life, where they still wreak havoc today” (p. 37). Fortunately she had loving female relatives—and she had books! Indeed, for her “life really began in the third grade when I learned to read” (p. 11). She read and read and a wonderful world opened for her. In time she was admitted to medical school in Aleppo and subsequently worked in a medical clinic. She also met (defying Muslim customs) a young man who became her husband and the father of her children.
Her awakening to the evils of Islam escalated when, finishing her medical studies in 1979, she “witnessed the death of our ophthalmology lecturer” (p. 45). As the shots rang out she heard “the killer’s voice shouting from the loudspeaker: ‘Allahu akbar . . . Allahu akbar!’” (p. 45). “When Muslims kill,” Sultan explains, “they shout “Allahu akbar!”—Allah is the greatest!’” (p. 45). The slain professor was “a man I had looked up to as an ideal of morality and humanity—an upright, generous, and cultured man” who had studied in Europe. “Ever since that moment, Allah has been equated in my mind with the sound of a bullet and become a God who has no respect for human life. From that time on I embarked upon a new journey in quest for another God—a God who respects human life and values every human being” (p. 45).
Her journey, fortunately for her and her family, led to the United States. In “1988 I got a heaven-sent gift: I received my American visa, after spending three days and nights outside the U.S. consulate in Damascus” (p. 93). Living in Los Angeles, she found the freedom she’d always craved, even though it meant initially working at a gas station! Amazingly, Americans treated her better as a gas station attendant than Syrians had treated her as a medical doctor. As she studied to improve her English and take medical exams in her new country, she also began to read voraciously in books that helped her understand the difference between America and Syria. And she began writing and speaking, in both English and Arabic, identifying Islam as the source of the backwardness and evils in much of the world. That, ultimately, led to her appearance on Al Jazeera and her international celebrity as a woman willing to challenge Muslim clerics.
She is deeply distressed by Muslims who fail to repudiate Islam when granted freedom in the West. Indeed: “I have no hopes for Muslims, men or women, who live in the West. They are, quite simply, hypocrites. They are trying to have the best of both worlds” (p. 145). Even worse, they are rearing their children to espouse radical Islam and its terrorist tendencies. For her, there is no hope for any reformation of Islam, for “Islam is a sealed flask. Its stopper allows no ventilation” (p. 155). There is no freedom, in any realm of life, for the Muslim. All is dictated. Just as Allah dictates, without reason, so too Muslim rulers dictate to their passive followers. “Obey Allah and the Apostle and those in authority among you” says the Koran. Independent thinking and speaking and acting cannot be tolerated, for “Islam is a closed market.” Nor does “the concept of responsibility” have much standing. Muslim men still approach life as warriors, killing and raiding, rather than working and building. And when they fail they become victims, convinced everyone is against them—especially the Jews, who are routinely skapegoated.
To Sultan, there is an irresolvable “clash of civilizations” that can only be resolved by the defeat and destruction of Islam. She is never shocked by terrorist attacks—it’s all a part of the Islamic approach to the world. Nor is she surprised by the deceitful strategies of Muslims living in the West. Americans especially, she laments, “are not expert at either debate or trickery. They say what they mean and mean what they say, and have no idea that they are dealing with people skilled in saying what they don’t mean and meaning what they have never said” (p. 204). Living in her adopted country, daily thankful for the many freedoms she now enjoys, she loves “America as few people do, and my love for it makes me feel concern for it” (p. 235).
The election of Barak Obama in 2008 has intensified her concern because the “Islamists are not particularly interested in whether Obama is a Muslim or not: The fact that the American president bears a Muslim name like Hussein is enough to convince them that Islam is marching into America and has already infiltrated the White House” (p. 239). Even more alarming, to Wafa Sultan, was a remark made by Colin Powell during the election campaign, when he declared that even if Obama were a Muslim that would be fine! How amazing that the former “secretary of state couldn’t see what was wrong with America’s choosing a Muslim president, even though it is the country that has suffered most from Muslim terrorism and paid the highest price because of it” (p. 240). Powell’s naïveté, the author fears, typifies this nation’s leaders—and could easily lead to its downfall. To prevent this—to awaken America to the real nature of Islam and the designs of her practitioners—Sultan has written this provocative treatise.
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Allah—the “God who hates” so detested by Wafa Sultan—is the God one finds in the “holy book” of Islam, says Robert Spencer in The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., c. 2009). It’s the latest of his nine critical treatises on Islam, and he believes every American needs to know what’s in the Koran since public pronouncements generally describe it as a depository of peaceful admonitions and prescriptions for righteousness. On the contrary, he argues, the sacred text of Islam continually calls the faithful to violently spread Mohammed’s message, to engage in ceaseless jihad until everyone bows in submission to Allah. Radical jihadists, such as the Pakistani Beitullah Mehsud, who declared that “‘Allah on 480 occasions in the Holy Koran extols Muslims to wage jihad. We only fulfill God’s orders. Only jihad can bring peace to the world’” (p. 7). And Mehsud makes it clear that jihad means military action, not inner discipline.
The glaring discrepancy between what American leaders say about Islam and what the Koran actually teaches was evident when Barak Obama spoke in Cairo soon after he became president. He praised the compassionate, peaceful message of the “holy Koran,” citing an illustrative verse. Importantly, however, he ignored the next verse, which calls for crucifying or amputating the limbs of all who dare resist Islamic expansion. Obama then cited a verse apparently calling for religious tolerance, whereas “this Koranic passage is actually about fighting unbelievers and doesn’t remotely advocate peaceful coexistence” (p. 12). “Out of this command to wage jihad warfare against unbelievers, Obama cherry-picked one sentence that made it appear as if the Koran were simply counseling one to speak the truth, mindful of the divine presence. He took a passage about warfare and division and passed it off as a call for us all to come together and sing ‘Kumbaya’” (p. 13).
To provide us with a better perspective than espoused by Obama, Spencer endeavors to explain “what exactly is the Koran,” revered as “the Book” by devout Muslims and “absolutely central to Muslim life and culture” (p. 25). It is allegedly a record of Allah’s dictates, transmitted through Mohammed, perfect and eternal in every aspect—including its Arabic tongue (the only approved language for reading and prayer). It is, however, obviously situated in a very particular historical period and largely reveals answers to a variety of Mohammed’s questions. To an “infidel” such as Spencer, the historical record of the book’s composition and canonization make it much less than a fully divine book, but to understand Islam one must appreciate the high and infallible status it enjoys within the Muslim world.
Attentively reading the Koran reveals its real message: Mohammad is the last and greatest of the prophets. In short: it’s all about him! Prior prophets, from Abraham to Jesus, have value only as they prefigure and prepare the way for Mohammad. Jewish and Christian scriptures are twisted beyond recognition in order to justify his agenda. And the series of revelations recorded in the Koran primarily provide the prophet with guidance or justification as he shifts from a religious reformer to a military leader (as well as add to his growing collection of wives).
Mohammad also enunciated Allah’s hate for all who reject Islam, asserting they are “immensely, inveterately corrupt” (p. 96). There is, quite simply, no tolerance in the Koran for other religions, “And in rejecting the message of Muhammed and refusing to worship Allah alone, Infidels commit the worst of all sins” (p. 98). Those Jews and Christians who may be unaware of the truth of Islam are “proto-Muslims” and better off than polytheistic pagans, but once they encounter the Truth they must embrace the message of Mohammad or be damned. Consequently, “most Muslim commentators believe that the Jews are those who have earned Allah’s wrath and the Christians are those who have gone astray” (p. 103). Though Mohammad spoke positively about Jews in his early years, when they opposed him in Medina he began to verbally abuse and physically attack them, declaring that “Allah transforms disobedient Jews into apes and pigs” (p. 126). Trinitarian Christians necessarily violate the strict monotheism Mohammad preached, and though Jesus receives some high marks as a prophet He was merely a man, significantly inferior to Mohammad.
The Koran’s message on women elicits some of Spencer’s most critical comments. Clearly women are inferior to men and regarded as their possessions. Indeed, “the Koran likens a woman to a field (tilth), to be used by a man as he wills” (p. 158). Consequently, a “woman’s legal testimony is worth half that of a man” (p. 158) and a son inherits twice as much as a daughter. Polygamy is widely approved and practiced, even in Western nations where Muslim immigrants gather. Diligent researchers believe there are “tens of thousands of polygamous unions” in the United States (p. 170). A man is entitled to up to four wives and may (following Mohammad’s example) marry pre-pubescent girls. (The Prophet himself married a six year old child and consummated the union three years later.) To divorce his wife a Muslim man simply says “I divorce you,” whereas a woman must go through a different and much more difficult process. Shi’ite men may also “enter into marriages that have a time limit: the couple may marry one another for one night, or a weekend, or a month, or any limit they choose” (p. 164).
Needless to say, Spencer finds the Koran responsible for much Islamic intolerance and violence. He shares the position of two Hindus who petitioned “the Calcutta High court alleging the Koran violated Indian law because it ‘incites violence, disturbs public tranquility, promotes, on ground of religion, feelings of enmity, hatred and ill-will between different religious communities and insults other religions or religious beliefs of other communities in India’” (p. 215). He also cites, with guarded approval, the views of Geert Wilders, the Dutch Parliamentarian renowned for his hostility to Islam. “‘The Koran’s core theme,’ he said, ‘is about the duty of all Muslims to fight non-Muslims; an Islamic Mein Kampf, in which fight means war, jihad. The Koran is above all a book of war—a call to butcher non-Muslims” (p. 218).
So, “for Infidels, the Koran is a dangerous book” (p. 232).
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Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Ravi Zacharias recorded his reaction in Light in the Shadow of Jihad (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., c. 2002). Born in India, Zacharias has extensive knowledge of world religions and has written and spoken widely as an esteemed Christian apologist. Regarding 9/11, he says, “the world came to a standstill” (p. 9). Clearly a war began and America is engaged, but it “is a different type of war” (p. 11). Jihad has come to our shores! “We are in a struggle for survival, and we face an uncertain future before a cruel and ultimately homeless enemy” (pp. 12-13).
Reflecting on the struggle—which is, in fact, a “war between good and evil”—he argues: 1) the Muslims who attack us fear “a morally strong America;” 2) they are emboldened by the fact that “genuine faith in God suffers in this country at the hands of radical academics among us who have tossed out the Creator in our national ethos and worldview” (p. 14). One need only visit Harvard Law School to find such academics. Consider the words of Professor Alan Dershowitz: “‘I do not know what is right,’ he contends. It alls sounds very honest and real, until he points his finger at his audience and says, ‘And you know what? Neither do you’” (p. 19). Neither he nor anyone else knows what is good or true.
When Americans cannot tell the difference between good and evil, when they are convinced relativists, they cannot defeat Jihadists. “This is America’s quandary. How do we determine what is evil?” (p. 25). There was no quandary for Thomas Jefferson and the American Founders! They believed that there are “certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And they fought to secure them. Then they established a union to sustain them, knowing, as George Washington declared: “‘Of all the disputations and habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness—These finest props of duties of men and citizens…. And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion’” (p. 31).
The “struggle between truth and falsehood,” Zacharias believes, is the real war. If Christianity is true, Islam is false. It’s an either/or issue, and ultimately religion shapes a people’s mind-set. Zacharias then provides readers with a brief history of Islam along with an explanation of its basic tenets. An honest reading reveals Jihad—violently imposing Islam wherever possible—as central to Muslim life. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood, for instance, read materials such as The Missing Religious Precept that “seethes with hate, incites to kill and destroy, calls for the spread of fear among the ‘backsliders and infidels,’ for the murder of leaders, for the scorching of a nation’s vegetation and its livelihood, and for building absolute fearlessness in its followers” (p. 47).
To fight against such radical Jihadists, Zacharias urges Christians to remain rooted in their Source, ponder the message of the Bible, and win the battle for men’s minds.
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Samir Khalil Samir, a Jesuit priest of Egyptian and Italian descent, was born in Cairo and educated in Europe. The president of the International Association of Christian Arabic Studies, he now lives in Beirut and is considered one of the greatest scholars in the Mideast. Two journalists, Giorgio Paolucci and Camillel Eid interviewed Samir, and their edited transcripts appear as 111 Questions on Islam (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, c. 2008). This is best approached as a short, accessible reference work (with a helpful chronology, bibliography, glossary, and index) rather than a sustained treatise, but it certainly contains the considered, carefully nuanced judgment of one of the world’s most knowledgeable scholars.
Samir responds to questions regarding the foundations of Islam, the possibilities of change within the Muslim world, the problems of human rights wherever Sharia is established, the issues raised by immigrants to the West, and relations between Islam and Christianity. Explaining the importance of the Muslims’ belief that the Qur’an is “the tongue of God,” he notes that interpreting the text is virtually impossible. Consequently, rote memorization and repetition of the sacred book is mandatory—you may apply the words to current contexts, but reasoning and interpreting it is not allowed. “For Muslims, the Qur’an can be compared to Christ: Christ is the Word of God made flesh, while the Qur’an—please forgive my play on words—is the word ‘made paper’” (p. 45).
This means, of course, that it is virtually impossible for Islam to significantly change, to reform, to adjust to the modern world. Thus “the term ‘jihad’ indicates the Muslim war in the name of God to defend Islam” (p. 62). Efforts to portray it otherwise simply find no basis in the Qur’an, and those in the West who take Islam to be tolerant and peaceful “usually know very little about Islam” (p. 65). Similarly, since all truth is found in the Qur’an there is no room for human reason. Do what you’re told without questioning why! The natural law, so significant in shaping the philosophy and theology of Western Civilization, has no real parallel in Islam, and Muslims think “it inconceivable to speak of natural law apart from religious law (shari’a) given by God to man, being persuaded that there is no universal given that is not already included in the Islamic conception of life. While in Christianity one starts from reason and arrives at revelation, in the classic Islamic conception revelation comes before reason and prevails upon it, engulfs it” (p. 201).
Throughout 111 Questions On Islam one this fact routinely appears: Islam lacks real respect for reason. “In Islamic thought, the argument of authority prevails (‘God established this’) over that of rationality (‘reason allows man to reach the knowledge of moral law’). The qur’anic norm is more authoritative than reality” (p. 91). Thus a noted Muslim theologian, explaining why the faithful should make a pilgrimage to Mecca, said: “‘The pilgrimage is the most irrational thing in Islam. There we perform gestures and rites that are absolutely irrational. For this reason, the pilgrimage is the place where we can, better than any other place, demonstrate our faith because reason does not understand anything at all of it and only faith makes us do those actions. Blind obedience to God is the best evidence of our Islam’” (pp. 179-180). Little more need be said!
In many ways the carefully nuanced, restrained language of Samir—along with his obvious concern for the welfare of Muslims—makes his criticism of Islam more persuasive than those who write with more passion.