A "religion of peace," says President Bush about Islam. But investigative journalist Robert Spencer, in his new book "Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West," argues that what we call "Islamic extremism" stems from a straightforward reading of the Koran and interpretative Islamic texts.
On Nov. 10, 2003, I interviewed Spencer.
Larry Elder: Is Islam a religion of peace that's been hijacked by Islamic extremists, as George W. Bush says?
Robert Spencer: There are millions of peaceful Muslims . . . but the fact is that radical Muslims are using core texts of Islam that are deeply rooted in Islamic theology, tradition, history and law to justify their actions, and those radical Muslims are able to recruit and motivate terrorists around the world by appealing to these core Islamic texts. . . . As far as the radical, violent elements of the religion go, they are very deeply rooted, and we are naive in the extreme if we don't recognize that and try to get moderate Muslims to acknowledge it so that real reform can takeplace.
Elder: Have some translations of the Koran taken out the more extreme statements?
Spencer: The only Koran that really matters is what's in Arabic, because as far as traditional Islamic theology goes, Allah . . . was speaking to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel, and the language is intrinsic, can't be separated from the message. The fact is that what's in Arabic is very clear . . . but in two opposite directions. What you have are very many verses of peace and tolerance, and also very many verses sanctioning and mandating violence against non-believers. . . .