Books on Islam, part 3
The Two Faces of Islam
by Stephen Schwartz
Except for the part that approves of mass murder, this is a valuable book. I recommend it highly. Of course, you also have to overlook that the author, while praising Islam, fails to mention that he is a muslim himself. But I repeat, this is a valuable book, because it contains a wealth of dirt on Saudi Arabia.
It’s not that Stephen Schwartz actually hides his Islamic affiliation. The first sixty-five pages of the book are a short history of Islam which not even Osama bin Laden could possibly object to. In fact, this section is embarrassingly childish missionary propaganda. The most absurd Muslim myths and legends are presented as simple historical truth. If you have ever read a book on the lives of Catholic saints, written for ten year-olds, you know the flavor of this material. Muhammad was the only perfect man, he was the soul of kindness, Muslims won their battles because hordes of angels fought beside them, etc. Muhammad takes a captive to be his sex slave, after murdering her father and husband and naturally, she falls deeply in love with him. Muhammad never did anything wrong and if he did, everyone else was doing it too, so that makes it okay. He was perfect except when he wasn’t and then he is excused because fourteen hundred years ago Arabia was a barbarous place. And Schwartz uses strategic omission as well. He trots out the verse from the Koran that says there should be no compulsion in religion but fails to mention the doctrine of abrogation, accepted by all schools of Islamic law, which holds that when two verses of the Koran appear to be in conflict, the latter revelation abrogates, or cancels the earlier one. This is no minor point, since the compassionate, tolerant verses are all early and the violent, intolerant verses are all later. This kind of tactical silence is standard with all Muslim propagandists, such as Karen Armstrong, but Stephen Schwartz vaults into a class by himself when he whitewashes the massacre ordered by Muhammad following the Battle of the Trench. Following is Schwartz’s account. I have inserted numerals which I will use to organize my counter-arguments.
“ In 627, Muslim power was again victorious over Mecca…after which the men of the tribe of Qurayzah (1) were offered mercy (2) if they accepted Islam, but they were willing to die (3) rather than surrender their faith.”
“Muhammad’s treatment of these groups has led some…critics to accuse him of anti-Jewish prejudice (4). However, he was fighting a religious war (5) in a part of the world without law, (6) leading men whose minds were illuminated with the truth of the one true God, (7) and he had against him his own kin and townsmen. (8) Ambiguities in loyalty could no longer be tolerated. (9) But it has also been observed that Muhammad fought people over their attitudes, not their beliefs.” (10)
1. The men of the tribe of Qurayzah who were captured numbered some 300 (Schwartz), 600 (Wikipedia), or 1300 (Armstrong). Qurayzah was a Jewish tribe. Muhammad attacked them because they didn’t believe he was a prophet.
2. “(they) were offered mercy”. No, they weren’t. They were given a choice of conversion or death. Mercy is unconditional, and in the earlier verses of the Koran (later to be cancelled) Muhammad says many beautiful things about mercy. By a wonderful coincidence, on page 2 of this same book, we read that in Europe, around 1000 A.D., “Germans, Nordics, Slavs and Baltic peoples were forcibly baptized…Those who resisted were murdered or driven to flight.” So when Christians kill those who refuse to abandon the religion of their ancestors, Stephen Schwartz considers it murder, but when Muhammad slaughters a thousand prisoners for the same reason it is something quite different. The word ‘murder’ is strangely missing.
3. “willing to die” makes it sound like the men of Qurayzah were tired of living, which is unlikely, but Schwartz wants us to think that they preferred death because they were too hard-hearted to accept mercy, which “was offered.” This use of the passive voice allows Schwartz to leave Muhammad’s name out of the sentence.
4. “to accuse (Muhammad) of anti-Jewish prejudice” Schwartz is definitely low-balling the non-Muslim opinion here. More common accusations would be genocide, mass murder, anti-semitism, crimes against humanity, bloodlust, sadism, etc.
5. “he was fighting a religious war” True, and it was a war Muhammad started.
6. “in a part of the world without law” This is completely false. There were laws of warfare in Arabia at that time, accepted by all tribes, which Muhammad broke whenever he felt like it. If he heard a rumor that another tribe was thinking about breaking a treaty with him, that was all he needed to attack first. One of the most obvious facts about Muhammad is that he would break any law or tradition whenever it was in his interest. If criticized too much he would concoct a revelation afterwards to justify himself.
7. “leading men whose minds were illuminated…”
When you read this sentence, did you suffer whiplash from the 180 degree change of subject? What do Muhammad’s soldiers have to do with this? Is Schwartz trying to deflect blame? Is he implying that Muhammad wanted to be nice but that the soldiers wanted blood and Muhammad was afraid to deny them? But all Muslim accounts stress that the soldiers were fanatically loyal to their prophet; they would do whatever he ordered with no questions. Again, I have to ask, how did these soldiers, with their illuminated minds, end up in the middle of this argument? Elsewhere in his works, Stephen Schwartz, a longtime journalist, gives abundant evidence that he understands the concept of paragraph unity, so what is going on here?
I’m taking a wild guess, but I think that while he was writing this whitewash, the stress of doublethink, of self-induced schizophrenia finally became too much for Schwartz. He wanted to defend his beloved prophet, but some long repressed part of his mind realized he should not be giving Muhammad a free pass here. Because the horror didn’t end with the murder of a thousand men. Their wives and children were sold into slavery. A Jewish tribe of at least four thousand people was erased. That would have been one trainload to Auschwitz. It was genocide. And so, while trying to excuse it, his mind rebelled and he discovered that his fingers were typing something about soldiers with illuminated minds.
8. “he had against him his own kin and townsmen.” This is completely irrelevant. After the Battle of the Trench Muhammad was the evident master of Arabia. It didn’t matter than some of his neighbors and relatives were still against him. The disarmed prisoners of the Qurayzah were no threat to him. He could have chosen mercy but he preferred vengeance.
9. “Ambiguities in loyalty could no longer be tolerated.” This is the stupidest and yet most sinister sentence in the entire paragraph. Stupid, because ambiguity, or uncertainty, was not the problem. The loyalties of the Qurayzah were crystal clear. They were loyal to Moses, not Muhammad. Sinister, because here Schwartz revives one of the oldest slanders against the Jews. For thousands of years bigots in Europe who were irritated by the Jews’ attachment to their ancient nation of Israel concluded that they couldn’t really be equally loyal to Germany, or France or Poland. In the Soviet Union the codeword was “cosmopolitanism.” In fact Jews have always been the most law abiding people in every country where they have lived.
10.“But is has been observed that Muhammad fought people over their attitudes, not beliefs.” Really? And who has observed that? Has Stephen Schwartz observed that? No, because two sentences earlier, in the very same paragraph, we read that “(Muhammad) was fighting a religious war.” But now some nameless group of others appears (miraculously?), speaking in the passive tense, to disagree. No, it wasn’t really about religion at all
I apologize that my refutation is many times longer than the paragraph I am disagreeing with, but it takes a lot of disassembling to unpack all the lies, evasions and dishonesty packed into those few sentences. The thought processes of a true believer are tortuous and the motives incomprehensible, thankfully, to most people, but here we can see just how hard a zealot will work to erase the truth and defend the indefensible.
Stephen Schwartz is not obliged to feel any sympathy for those murdered men and those women and children sold as slaves. In fact, his religion obligates him to believe that they got what they deserved, because Muslims believe that Muhammad was the only perfect human being. His actions cannot be questioned, only praised.
But I said that I recommend this book and I am dead serious. Just skip the first sixty-five pages. Following that is a wonderful two hundred page indictment of Saudi Arabia. For that, Stephen Schwartz’s religion is a plus. All the best exposés of Saudi Arabia are written by Muslims who despise the Wahabi heresy of Islam which is the official religion in the kingdom created by Abdul Azziz ibn Saud.
It was in Bosnia, where he was working as a journalist, that Schwartz converted to the Sufi, or mystical tendency of Islam. Though Sufis are sometimes described as pacifist, they have produced some notable warriors, particularly in the Caucasus. Because of his Sufi connections, Schartz can describe in detail the way that Wahabi zealots, financed from Saudi Arabia, have tried to hijack the struggle for autonomy in Bosnia and Kosovo and also the war against the Russians in Chechnya. In both cases, the Wahabis behave like the Stalinists in the Spanish Civil War; they purge everyone who disagrees with them. Then they destroy the beautiful ancient mosques, replace them with Saudi-style big boxes, devoid of all decoration, and, to make themselves even more hated, they never stop telling the local Muslims that they don’t know how to pray properly.
Schwartz also details Saudi support for terror around the world. He tells the story of the infamous telethon in Saudi Arabia that raised 109 million dollars for the families of suicide bombers, and adds, “The Saudi cleric who hosted the telethon, Shaykh Saad al-Buraik, preached in a mosque in Riyadh, calling for the enslavement of the Jewish women of Israel, once Palestinian victory was achieved. Referring to Jews as ‘monkeys,’ al-Baraik declared, ‘Muslim brothers in Palestine, do not have mercy or compassion toward the Jews, their blood, their money, their flesh. Their women are yours to take, legitimately. God made them yours. Why don’t you enslave their women? Why don’t you wage jihad? Why don’t you pillage them?’ Al-Baraik was with Prince (now King) Abdullah on a visit to President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas in April, 2002.”
That last fact, about the visit to Crawford, is the kind of thing that non-muslim journalists always miss. Muslims, like Stephen Schwartz, are much more aware of the gap between Saudi propaganda and Saudi reality.
I’m not sure why Schwartz chose that particular passage from al-Baraik’s sermon to quote. He couldn’t possibly disagree on theological grounds. Everything al-Baraik says is ordinary Muslim doctrine, taken from the life of Muhammad, such as his behavior at the Battle of the Trench. Captive women were an important motivator for Muhammad and his men. Dead soldiers expected sex slaves in Paradise, and those who survived battle were rewarded with the female relatives of those they had just killed.
The Two Faces of Islam also contains useful information on Saudi corruption of higher education in the non-Muslim world. The Kingdom has been endowing Muslim studies programs at colleges and universities all over the world, including Ivy League schools in the U.S. Students in all these programs lobby for so-called “hate speech” codes to give Islam a privileged position on campus, totally exempt from discussion by non-believers, and they lead noisy protests against anyone who tries to speak about Islam or terrorism. This is very scary and depressing, because these people find willing allies among the left-wing, so-called progressive intellectuals. Being nice to the Muslims then becomes part of the reigning political correctness.
I repeat, this is a valuable book. It took courage to write, because the Saudis have a lot of money and they fight back. They bribe journalists to spread slander, they encourage ‘spontaneous’ acts of violence, they block websites, etc. Stephen Schwartz has refused to be intimidated for a long time. He continues to tell the truth about the Wahabis, publishing in the few magazines willing to risk Saudi organized advertising boycotts, such as The Weekly Standard. If only our politicians would pay attention….